How to Reduce Your Child’s Math Anxiety
Stanford University researchers have studied brain activity patterns of second- and third-graders who were stressed about math and confirmed biological evidence of the existence of math anxiety. Brain activity of children who struggle with math showed patterns similar to ones of people with other phobias while they performed math problems. The brains of the panicky children had increased activity in the regions associated with fear, and decreased activity in the regions involved in problem-solving.
Unfortunately, during the research study, the children with high math anxiety were less accurate and significantly slower at solving math problems than children with low math anxiety. This is important information, as children with math anxiety tend to avoid taking higher level math courses — lessening their opportunity to enter many careers. Adults with life-long math anxiety may find it difficult to understand such things as mortgage rates and credit-card interest.
Knowing that math anxiety is a real phobia gives hope that it may be treatable as other phobias. One way to help children avoid getting anxiety about math is to make sure that they have a firm understanding of math processes.
Other things that can help reduce your child’s math anxiety include: making sure that she has a strong background in basic skills, having her solve easy math problems to gain confidence in her abilities and helping her learn stress-reduction techniques. The more comfortable a child becomes with numbers, the less stress she will encounter when dealing with math.
Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 publications to their credit.