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Responding to the Student with Math Anxiety

Students can experience math anxiety in any class that has quantitative activities. Math anxiety can be caused by poor math teaching; cultural expectations (e.g., Only men excel in math); not being developmentally ready for certain math concepts; having a math learning disability; and the sequential nature of math.

Most individuals who admit to having math anxiety do not show symptoms of anxiety disorders in other areas of their lives. However, a high degree of math anxiety can affect a person’s inability to perform in non-math related situations.

Math anxiety can be successfully addressed, using both psychological and learning strategies coupled with appropriate math placement.

Symptoms of Math Anxiety include :

  • rapid heartbeat
  • sweaty palms
  • feelings of inadequacy
  • negative self-talk
  • an inability to retain information in a test situation
  • Let the student talk about his/her experiences with math: when the anxiety first began, what kind of negative reactions existed, etc.
  • Be supportive of the student and ask the student about his/her goals and what math course is needed to fulfill those goals.
  • Be sure the student has the proper background for the present math course.
  • Recommend some study strategies (e.g., note cards, time management, paper-and- pencil techniques) to help the student begin to take control of the learning process or some accommodations, such as extended time for an assignment.
  • Refer the student to the Counseling Center (301) 314-7651 for psychological or educational/vocational interventions.
  • Minimizing the situation.
  • Expecting the anxiety to just go away.
  • Assuming the student is just lazy and not working.
  • Telling the student to put more time into the course without any intervention.
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