Using math can be scary. For many people, both adults and children, the idea of having to use math can cause stress and anxiety. From taking tests to doing taxes, the pressure that comes with mathematics can lead to rushing through problems, making small mistakes, and avoiding numbers altogether. Spark Education knows how hard it can be to overcome the anxiety of doing math to become a confident math ace. In our new series “Math and Mindset”, we go over some of the ways to help get ready to learn, compete, and excel in your education in fun, healthy, and exciting ways. Here is our first blog in this series ” How to fight math anxiety and build confidence.”
What is Math Anxiety?
Having to do math, in school or work, can cause people to become tense, scared, and even panicked. This emotional response to math is called “Math Anxiety.” Math anxiety can be caused by feelings of embarrassment, self-doubt, the pressure of a big test, or struggles with a new concept. This can make anyone feel less skilled than other people and choose to avoid math. Avoiding such an important subject can lead to poor grades and a lack of interest in many different STEM subjects like science.
Often, people mistakenly believe they are alone in their struggles with math. The truth is, no one with math anxiety is alone. Researchers believe that about 20% of people suffer from math anxiety. For this large part of the population, the ability to do math is there but the negative emotional and physical responses to doing math get in the way. Anxiety can make people struggle with attention, memory, comprehension, and problem-solving. These all result in math mistakes, even if students understand the concepts.
The good news is that once people learn what math anxiety is, they can start trying to move past it. With the help of teachers, family, professionals, and even other people who suffer from math anxiety, we can build math confidence. With the right support, math can stop being a scary topic and become something people can do, excel at, and even love!
How to Build Math Confidence
To get beyond math anxiety, we need to find ways to make math a normal part of everyday life. By normalising experiences and feelings that come up with math and education in general, we can work towards becoming better learners, test takers, and math aces. Here are a few tips to help anyone make math go from a hard and scary task to just another life skill.
It is okay to struggle and ask for help!
The first step to building confidence in math is knowing that nobody is perfect. All students deal with an experience called the “Learning Pit.” The “Learning Pit” is what people call that feeling of becoming more frustrated and confused the longer you work on a problem. The more you try to work on a problem, the more negative emotions you can have and the harder it can be to move on to the next question. It’s important to know that this feeling is normal. It’s okay to skip a stressful question and come back to it later, or take a break to review concepts when doing homework.
The most important thing someone can do when they feel like they are getting stuck doing math is to ask for help. Children should feel safe to ask for help and receive it in a supportive and honest way. Parents can start by providing a safe space and responding positively when children ask for help. This provides opportunities at home for kids to learn that it’s okay to get support when needed. Parents might not have all the answers and need help with concepts themselves, but together, families can normalise wanting to get better and learn.
Words and actions make a stronger impact than any people realise. When people say things like “When am I going to use this in real life?” or “You can just Google it”, it makes learning seem less important and unnecessary. Keeping words and actions positive when it comes to how learning is addressed is a good way to make it less scary and more a part of growing up. Instead of avoiding tough subjects, try and make them a challenge. Say things like ” It was fun to learn something new” or “I can use this skill the next time I cook.” These positive reactions to learning make math a useful part of life and not a struggle that should be avoided.
Find fun and exciting ways to use math
Math isn’t just for test taking and homework. There are tons of ways math is used in the real world that can make even the biggest math hater appreciate numbers. Board games, like Monopoly, are fun ways to use math skills to challenge your friends and family and win big. Even better, a study showed that people who are able to do well on a math test make an average of over 4 thousand dollars more annually than people who didn’t. Being good at math also helps people keep their money. A strong understanding of budgeting and investing can help keep you out of debt and grow the money you already have.
For those people who love video games and want to work in the field, math can help make worlds in your imagination become reality on screen. Subjects like science, technology, engineering, and medicine all use math heavily. While some professions use math more than others, the important thing is to be comfortable using it and getting help when you need it. You never know what opportunities you might miss because you avoided math.
Confidence in Math, Education, and Life
Challenges require persistence and patience, but the feeling that comes with overcoming them helps make people grow. Learning new skills, especially math, can be challenging and scary for anyone. With the right support, mindset, and time, students can work to vanquish math anxiety and become confident learners. If students can build confidence with something as tough as math, nothing should stop them from building that confidence with what they are passionate about. People might be surprised at how that new confidence in math might make all the difference when taking the next steps in life.
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