Analyzing Math Anxiety

May 18, 2011
Analyzing Math Anxiety

Researchers at the Numerical Cognition Lab and the University of Chicago have been analyzing the causes of "math anxiety".  This is a situation familiar to many K-12 students, who seem to freeze when they see a math problem.  Their research shows that the anxiety of math teachers and parents can rub off on their students, ultimately affecting their learning.

Fortunately, proven classroom methods have also been tested to reduce students' anxiety of doing mathematics.  These tips include:
  • Focus on learning the process behind math concepts, rather than merely trying to get a right answer.
  • Similarly, don't refer to the textbook's answer key very often.  Instead, value the problem and have students arrive at their own answers.
  • Encourage every student to work on the problem on paper.  This is in contrast to more traditional methods where one student raises his/her hand, blurts out the answer, and then the teacher promptly moves on to the next  question.
  • Give students time to make mistakes, realize their own mistakes, and then time to attempt problems multiple times.
Read the full article describing the research here.