The STEM Education Blog

3 Ways Math Anxiety May Be Holding Your Students Back

Nov 12, 2018 2:01:00 PM / by Christine Naab

Math anxiety is a phenomenon that occurs when students who have trouble in math begin to develop a fear of the subject due to low self-confidence. As the anxiety grows, students are more likely to avoid the pursuit of STEM subjects. In this post, we will explore the ways that this occurrence can inhibit your students’ performance.

For more details about how to reduce math anxiety in your classroom, check out this resource: Engaging Tools for Reducing Math Anxiety.


Students are Too Focused on Memorizing Formulas

A significant part of mathematics is centered around formulas that students are required to memorize. Without these formulas committed to memory, students will struggle on exams. However, math anxiety can result from too much focus on the formulas. When students take to heart that these formulas are the keys to success on a test, they focus on memorizing them rather than learning the overarching concept itself. When students do this, they often under perform, resulting in increased anxiety about the need to do well.


Students Don’t See How This Applies Outside the Classroom

Additionally, when math is taught through a series of examples of how to do calculations, students tend to be focused on how to replicate the calculation rather than how to apply it outside the classroom. Often students begin to believe that they will never use math in the future and frustration sets in about having to perform well in math at school. This can lead to a student’s loss of motivation and further encourages the dismissal of potential in the math classroom.


Students Think Math Lacks the Element of Fun

Finally, many students see math class only as a series of math problems out of a textbook, as math can be a difficult subject to incorporate engaging hands-on activities. When students lack this engagement in the subject, they tend to perform more poorly than they might in other subjects because they dread learning the material.


Begin looking for these signs in your classroom’s students and determine if math anxiety could be holding your students back from doing their best.

Christine Naab

Written by Christine Naab

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