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Addressing Math Anxiety in Your Students

By Elephant Learning

Addressing Math Anxiety in Your Students

3 minutesread

You know the signs. Your students with math anxiety are the ones who will do anything to avoid their math work. They’ll frequently “forget” to complete the homework you provide. Often, they’ll become frustrated by new concepts or proclaim that they are “just not a math person”.  

They may also exhibit behavior issues or tune out during your math lessons. You can never really be sure if they don’t understand you or they’ve just stopped listening. Both can stop learning in its tracks, slowly destroy self-esteem and put lucrative STEM-related jobs out of reach. 

As a teacher, you understand the genuine threat that math anxiety poses to your students. At its worst, math anxiety can cause insurmountable delays in learning, but even minor math anxiety can cause your students to believe they can’t master the concepts. 

The Research on Math Anxiety

Researchers have identified a variety of factors that can contribute to a student’s math anxiety, including different teaching methods between classroom teachers, a difficult transition between grades, pressure from standardized testing, and yes, homework. 

What is interesting, and what many teachers innately understand is that math anxiety does not always translate into poor grades or poor math skills.  

However, math anxiety is also exacerbated by gaps in understanding math concepts. Since math concepts [link to KB:] build on each other, these gaps can also lead to an unhealthy fear of failure that destroys a child’s self-esteem. This fear of failure may begin with math, but it can quickly spread to a child’s perception of their abilities in other subjects. 

Addressing the Gaps That Cause Math Anxiety

Elephant Learning can help you identify and address those gaps and the anxiety they cause. Because it is individualized, Elephant Learning focuses on the specific gaps in knowledge unique to your students. Those gaps are automatically addressed without the stress of demonstrating their lack of understanding in front of the entire class. 

Another aspect of math anxiety lies in a failure to grasp the language of mathematics. This, too, can prevent a student from progressing. If a student fails to understand the concept of addition, they will be unable to grasp multiplication. 

If you went into a third-year biochemistry course where they are using three years of biology and chemistry language that you do not understand, it might sound like English, but you are going to have no idea what is going on. This is what it is like for a child who does not understand the language of mathematics. The difference is that while you can walk out of that biochem course, your students can’t leave your classroom. Instead, they may act out or tune out.  

Elephant Learning can help you address the effects of math anxiety while also teaching your students the language of math and helping them master mathematical concepts. 

Reengaging Learners

Because the app uses gamification to teach concepts, it can reengage even your most reluctant learners. Even our initial placement exam is structured as part of the game so that students who might suffer from testing anxiety can be accurately assessed. 

We recommend that you start each student at a level behind where you think they currently are in terms of understanding. This allows the student to achieve success and reinforces their knowledge of initial concepts before they try something slightly more complicated. 

Of course, the app is fully customizable, so if you start your student too low and notice they become bored, you can quickly switch that concept to test out mode and seamlessly move on to the next concept. And because Elephant Learning is individualized, it allows each student to address the specific gaps in knowledge that may be holding them back. 

Other Ideas for Addressing Math Anxiety

Elephant Learning can help your students overcome math anxiety and begin to thrive in your math class. However, there are other things you can do to help, as well. Here are a few suggestions from our team: 

  • Use real-world situations to explain concepts. Real-world situations make math easier to understand but allow your child to remember concepts by linking them to situations easily.
  • Keep math fun – Make it a game or a puzzle to be solved. Be playful.
  • Recognize your own math anxiety. If you need a break, take one. 
  • Involve parents. Academic success is linked directly to parental involvement, particularly in math. Elephant Learning can help here as well as the app encourages parental involvement. 
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