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Episode 4: 3 Strategies to Stop Math Anxiety Before it Starts

Updated: Jul 30, 2021

Episode 4 Sources

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E4-Kids Math Talk Podcast
. 3 Strategies
Download 3 STRATEGIES • 1.95MB


What percentage of Americans do you think experience math anxiety? That panic, helplessness, paralysis, and mental disorganization when required to solve a math problem (Tobias 1980) ? 30%? How about 45%? Or Maybe 10%?

While daily life requires adults to apply math skills on a consistent basis-which the vast majority of Americans are actually capable of doing-“approximately 93 percent of Americans indicate that they experience some level of math anxiety” (Blazer 2011). Ninety-three percent of us are either getting sweaty palms and a racing heart just for trying to calculate the amount saved when something is on sale or we simply try to avoid these math situations altogether in order to avoid that uncomfortable anxiety.

Parents and educators have to work together so that these are not the experiences awaiting our children once they enter adulthood. Children start out life as inquisitive and innately mathematical beings. This fear is not the effect of a “missing math gene”- which isn’t even real by the way. This fear has been learned- it is the collective result of complex factors including negative associations or experiences about one’s belief in him or herself about doing math.

We have the power to interrupt the current system and this cycle of fear. In Episode 3, I give 3 strategies to stop math anxiety before it starts.

When I think about math experiences for my nephew and youngest niece, who will both enter kindergarten in the fall, I am hopeful that they will be able to explore math concepts through play and experimentation and will be free from anxiety or stress. I am excited to once again be able to work with children in my district and to help them experience the joy of math. But even with this optimism, the fact still remains that math anxiety “has...been recorded in [children] as young as five”(Boaler p. 38).

Imagine being an innocent child in a kindergarten or 1st grade classroom, with only a few years of schooling behind you, and already you’re terrified of getting an answer wrong or of making a mistake in front of your peers. Mistakes- which by the way are natural, and really how we learn. This will not only negatively affect your self-image, but this math anxiety will signal your amygdala to take over - that part of your brain responsible for the