Combating Anxiety & Cheering On Your Child in Mathematics

Enrichment Therapies

April 26, 2017

Dad and son working on homework together

By Elizabeth Drewelow

When I ask students about their favorite subjects in school, I get a variety of answers.  Some will say art, music, or physical education.  This comes with no surprise to me, as each allows for creativity and hands-on learning.  Others say recess, which is my personal favorite (and I have to chuckle a bit).  Much like reading and writing, math often comes in last.  Sometimes this is because the students find it to be truly difficult, but anxiety can also play a large role in the avoidance of the subject.

Recently, I was reading an article entitled “Math Anxiety and Attitudes Toward Mathematics: Implications for Students with Mathematical Learning Disabilities,” by Allyson Kiss, M.A., and Rose Vukovic (2017). According to Kiss and Vukovik, a student’s anxiety can have a strong influence on his or her approach to math.  Often this anxiety has a great impact on student performance, especially if a student adopts the belief that they will fail, which can lead to intensified dread or complete avoidance of math work.

Countless times, throughout my career in Special Education, I have seen anxiety grip students, making it hard to press forward in their learning.  Kiss and Vukovic (2017) also noted that a student’s feelings and beliefs about math greatly influence how they approach math, in general.  Therefore, before a math activity even begins, whether a child is capable or not, anxiety can begin to dictate their views and opinions of the content. Luckily, there are ways that teachers and parents can combat both math anxiety and negative attitudes. If adults approach math with an open mindset (ex. I can become better at math if I keep practicing), rather than a closed mindset (ex. You’re either good or you are bad at math), a child may adopt an attitude of positivity in regards to math.  Using statements that promote mathematical growth is a great way to cheer on your child.

Statements, such as the following, can make all the difference: 

  • Every time you practice, you move closer to meeting your math goals!
  • I like the way that you are practicing your math facts every day. This shows me that you want to do well!
  • The way that you tackle word problems is really awesome!  I can see that you read the problems, think about the steps you need to take, and then work towards the answer using your math skills.  That is really impressive.
  • Math is super important, and when you work hard, I can tell that you think it is important, too!
  • Math is not always easy, but you are so tough.  

Keep working hard and you will be even stronger in these skills! Although mathematical anxiety is a possibility for most students, parents and teachers can help kids battle such feelings with a dose of positivity.  When children are able to approach math with confidence, kicking fear to the curb, they will begin to welcome it as a challenge, rather than viewing it as something to be avoided.  Anxiety may be part of your child’s current or past experiences in mathematics, but it does not have to be a part of their future! References Kiss, A.J., & Vukovic, R. (2017).  Math anxiety and attitudes toward mathematics: Implications for students with mathematical learning disabilities. Perspectives on Language and Literacy, 43(1), 35-39.

Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center has locations in the Iowa City, IA area and Des Moines, IA area. We provide individual speech-language therapy and tutoring as well as offering small group academic programs.  At Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center our passion is to help kids achieve effective communication skills and gain academic success.  Contact us for more information on how we can help your child succeed.

740 Community Drive, Unit A

North Liberty, IA 52317


5530 West Pkwy, Suite 300

Johnston, IA 50131


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