Skip to Content

Math Anxiety: A Real Problem or Just an Excuse?

Sharing is caring!

Did you know that the thought of a math test can cause even the most confident student to feel stressed out? But for some, the emotions associated with math go beyond just regular stress.

It’s like an intense anxiety that clouds their ability to think clearly.

So, the question is: are these emotions a genuine problem or just an excuse to avoid an uncomfortable subject?

Dr. Sian Beilock, the author of “Choke,” a fascinating book on brain responses, points out something interesting. People are quick to say that they don’t like math, but you won’t hear them bragging about not being able to read. Isn’t it strange how it’s socially acceptable to admit that you don’t like math?

The Latest Research

Now, let’s talk about the latest research. Studies have shown that when students encounter math problems, their brains first process the information through the amygdala, which is the brain’s emotional center.

And here’s the incredible part: within a millisecond, another section of the brain called the prefrontal cortex takes over, allowing the student to analyze and think critically.

The problem is that in highly anxious students, the amygdala becomes overactive, leaving the prefrontal cortex underutilized.

Fascinating, isn’t it? Math anxiety is a real issue that affects many students.

Understanding the brain’s response to math can help us find ways to overcome it and make learning math a more enjoyable experience.

What Causes Such Stress Over Math?

Is this reaction learned or biological? Let’s dive deeper into this fascinating topic.

Brain scans have unveiled intriguing insights. Young children who exhibit quickness and accuracy in math demonstrate remarkably low levels of stress.

On the other hand, those who struggle or are less accurate show heightened levels of stress in their brains.

It’s remarkable how these early difficulties can lead to frustration and challenges later on, no matter how trivial they seem.

But that’s not all there is to it! Math anxiety can also be a learned behavior.

Dr. Beilock’s research shows that first and second-grade female teachers unconsciously transmit their negative attitudes about math to their female students.

Interestingly, this phenomenon doesn’t seem to affect males. It’s not just limited to the classrooms though. Parents can also unknowingly pass down their own negative perceptions about math to their children, regardless of their gender.

Isn’t it fascinating how our perception of math can shape our experiences? It’s an important reminder to approach math education and empowerment with positivity and support.

Are you worried about your child experiencing math anxiety? Don’t fret! I’ve got some tips and strategies to help them conquer their fears and excel in math. Check out these suggestions:

Don’t Let It Slide: Math is a subject that builds upon itself, so it’s crucial for your child to have a strong foundation.

If you notice them struggling, step in right away and lend a hand with homework. As they get older, they might not be as eager to work with you, so consider seeking help from their teacher or hiring a tutor.

With some patient guidance, your child will gain confidence and overcome any math obstacles.

Watch Your Words: Remember, you play a significant role in shaping your child’s perspective on math. Instead of dwelling on your own struggles with math, focus on the potential for improvement.

Encourage a growth mindset by emphasizing that your child can conquer any math challenge with practice. Remind them that “practice makes permanent” and encourage them to persevere.

Don’t Push Advanced Classes: While it’s becoming popular for students to take advanced math classes early on, it might not be the best approach for everyone.

If your child is experiencing significant math anxiety, pushing them into advanced classes could overwhelm them and hinder their progress.

It’s important to gauge their readiness and comfort level before encouraging them to take on advanced math courses.

Beware of Test Anxiety: Test anxiety can affect students in any subject, including math. Help your child combat test anxiety by ensuring they are well-prepared.

Encourage them to create practice tests and solve problems as if it were the real exam. This way, they can identify any problem areas and focus on improving them.

Adequate preparation will help reduce stress on test day.

Use the Summer: While the summer break is tempting for taking a break from math, studies show that reviewing and previewing concepts during this time is beneficial.

Encourage your child to brush up on troublesome skills and get a head start on what they’ll learn next school year. This will set them up for success when they return in the fall.

Learning Resources Base Ten Activity Book, Math Resources Booklet, 107 Page Activity Book, Homeschool Books, Math Help for Parents, Grades 3-6Get Full DetailsEvan-Moor® Learning Line Flashcards: Addition and Subtraction Facts to 10, Grade 1+ (Age 5+) (Flashcards: Math)Get Full DetailsEducational Insights Hot Dots Let's Master 1st Grade Math Set, Math Workbooks, 2 Books with 100 Math Lessons & Interactive Pen, Ages 6+Get Full DetailsFun Math Card Game - STEM Mathematics Addition and Subtraction Education - Helps to Teach Early Math Facts with 30 Matching Pairs Preschool Games & Gifts for Boys & Girls Ages 3 and UpGet Full Details


Remember, you’re not alone in supporting your child’s math journey. With these strategies in place, you can help them conquer math anxiety and develop a positive attitude toward the subject.

No matter the origins of negative feelings towards math, whether biologically rooted or learned, there is always an opportunity to help your child make a breakthrough and succeed.

It is never too late to turn the corner and embark on a journey of mathematical discovery.

Together, we can make learning math an exciting adventure filled with endless possibilities for your child. Let’s unlock their potential and pave the way for a bright and successful future!

Sharing is caring!