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Get Over Math Anxiety

6 steps to help kids do the math



(page 1 of 2)

Walk into a random classroom in any-school USA and at some point during the day, you’re likely to hear a take on the following claim: “I can’t do math!” 

Math anxiety is a real condition, defined as an apprehension or fear that interferes with the ability to perform calculations. For kids who have it, simply seeing a minus sign is enough to send them into a panic. If this sounds like your child, here are six teacher-vetted steps to help him overcome his fear and begin building confidence in math.

Step 1: ID a math comfort level.

Ask your child: “On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most confident, how confident are you in math?” Accept the answer your child gives, even if it seems off. Your job isn’t to convince her she’s wrong; it’s to help her feel intrinsically confident. So if she says she’s a 2, talk about why. Brainstorm what a 3 would feel like and ways to get to that level.

Step 2: Set achievable math goals.

Kids who struggle in math feel that “not being good at it” is a life sentence. They’ll never get it, so why try? Letting that attitude prevail is a slippery slope. Set specific, manageable goals. Instead of saying “I want to understand subtraction,” start with “In two weeks I will know how to subtract using regrouping.” With a clear attack plan, there can be no confusion once the goal is met.

Step 3: Eliminate math negatives. 

A study published in March concluded that math anxiety is not purely environmental — genetics can play a role as well. This doesn’t mean that if you struggled in math, your child is doomed. It does mean that you should keep any negative associations you have with math to yourself.

You can’t expect your child to feel good about math if he knows that you don’t see value in it. Stay positive, and model the learning process. If he needs help and you don’t have a clue what to do, check online for ideas or examples. Email the teacher for assistance or call a classmate to spark an understanding. 

NEXT PAGE: Steps 4-6. Plus, strategize like a math teacher.

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