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Easing Your Child’s Math Anxiety

DALLAS July 14, 2011

Signs of math anxiety

Holly Larsson McKinney, Texas

Jennifer Wilson Flowood, Miss.

Chris Monahan New York State

How teachers are combating math anxiety

EducationWeek Judy Willis Santa Barbara, Calif. Love Math

To fight math anxiety, teachers are creating classroom environments where all students feel free to share answers, right and wrong. In part, they are using interactive classroom technology to help students explore and analyze mathematics concepts in a non-threatening manner.

TI-Nspire™ handhelds TI-Nspire™ Navigator™ System

Math anxious students may need more help visualizing the concepts being taught, according to Larsson. "Using a graphing calculator, students can get a more visual look at the math and gain a better understanding. For every ‘ah ha’ moment students can have by exploring math concepts, a little more confidence is built, and they will be more willing and open to keep trying to learn."

In addition to classroom work, teachers are helping students with study skills, test-taking tactics and many also post lessons and notes online for students to access for homework and test preparation.

Carlo Trafficante Youngstown, Ohio

Having access to the teacher’s classroom notes online after class can help math anxious students avoid missing parts of the lesson while trying to copy down everything said in class, and provide a way for students to review lessons later. Trafficante records daily class lessons using his interactive whiteboard and posts them online so students can re-watch lessons on their own as needed.

Another helpful means to combating math anxiety is providing second-chance tests. Wilson says, "I give some of the most challenging tests in our school, but because students know that our ultimate goal is for them to learn mathematics, they know I will give them an opportunity to show me what they have learned if they do not do well on their test."

Teachers’ tips for parents

Parents uncomfortable with math can pass negative feelings on to their children. Many math teachers say that math anxious kids are more likely to say, "My mom and dad are not good at math so neither am I."

Wilson says, "Whatever you do, try not to tell your child that you can’t do math or that you can’t help. Telling your child you can’t do math tacitly gives them permission to not be successful."

Wilson and other teachers suggest parents encourage their children in mathematics by letting them know that it may not always be easy, but that they can do it. "Celebrate small gains," suggests Monahan, who also is an instructor for the T3™ professional development organization. "Given that many parents do not have the background to help their students with their math homework, their support for scoring a few points higher than usual is important for their child’s success."

Math teachers recommend parents encourage their kids to see the teacher for help outside of the classroom and find someone else to help outside of school if needed.

Pat Flynn

With the help of teachers, encouragement from parents and math tutors, and knowing they’re not the only ones anxious about math, more kids, particularly those practicing their skills using interactive classroom technology, are more likely to say, ‘This is math, and I understand it. I can do it.’

TI-Nspire technology

Sarah D. Sparks EducationWeek May 16, 2011

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