How to Tackle Math Anxiety
True story: I used to be bad at math. I always remember being bad at math. During my elementary years, my mother used to torture me over the summers with math workbooks and extra work. It was never fun and I dreaded it.
Math became a chore and I avoided it at all costs.
In fact, even into college, I feared math. Through a little-known loophole that likely doesn’t exist anymore, I was able to graduate with extra Fine Arts classes instead of Math classes. Nothing changed for me until I shifted my mindset about math and my own learning. Lucky for me, I had no choice but to shift my mindset when I headed to graduate school. In pursuing my MBA, I took several Math classes that forced me to embrace math. Simultaneously, I launched CROSSWALK as a means to support myself through graduate school and found myself teaching test prep and math skills. In both cases, I was lucky enough to be in situations in which I was able to see math strategies, short cuts and connections that I never saw before. All of a sudden, I started to feel good about math. Maybe my brain was just ready for math. Or maybe I finally understood that math was not my problem, rather my anxiety about math was. Once I put the anxiety behind me, I found math to be a joy. Confidence erased anxiety. Now, when my students tell me, “I’m bad at math,” I get to tell them my story. I tell them that the reason they are bad at math is that they have anxiety over it. For most students, anxiety is the heart of the issue, not ability. The key becomes how to tackle the anxiety. So how do you tackle the anxiety? Two ways: early and often. First, start early with fun ways to do math. Lucky for kiddos nowadays, there are many fun games and apps that can help. No more boring workbooks that my mom used to force on me. Bedtime Math is one such resource. Typically geared towards early learners, Bedtime Math can be fun for all ages. I even like to do some of the problems! Apps like Bedtime Math have proven to reduce anxiety around math. Start kiddos on these types of activities early and confidence can build. Second, make math a routine part of everyday activities. Repetition goes a long way in learning. Look for opportunities to frequently insert math-related topics into your everyday routine. Even just counting or pattern-recognition activities on the way to school can be fun. Or incorporate some math questions into your cooking, gardening, chores, etc. Count calories, chart times of television shows or otherwise take the normal, everyday activities and turn them into math questions. As you build confidence through fun math activities early and often, anxiety will melt away. It took me several decades to defrost my own math anxiety. If you can tackle your own anxiety soon, it won’t take you that long. For more learning ideas and ways to prepare for the ACT, SAT, SSAT, PSAT or other standardized tests, contact CROSSWALK.