Parents often hear the same dinner table response to the question, “how was school?”
Fine can mean uneventful, but for students experiencing math-induced anxiety, fine can mean many things: sweating and squirming as the teacher hands out a test; feeling like the world is coming down as she returns the graded test back. There are untold stories of breakdowns, hours of unnecessary stressing over homework, and even hiding low scores.
The worst part about anxiety in students is their difficulty in explaining it to others – even family and teachers.
But how can parents help?
Let’s first look at what students are battling with. As online math tutors, many students approach us with two common problems:
I study hard during the week but on the day of the test, I freeze up on the questions.
I put in the hard work studying, but my scores always fall short.
Both of these problems can get in your head and become toxic once test day arrives. But recently, scientists have shown that it’s often the student’s mindset – not necessarily the work ethic – that gets in the way:
Understanding the issue can be a kind of chicken-and-egg problem, however. Does math anxiety cause low performance, or do skill problems trigger the stress? The two probably feed on each other, Vukovic says. Indeed, she argues, if low math knowledge were the only issue, building up those skills should erase the problem. Instead, research shows, simply dealing with the anxiety can improve math performance. That suggests that anxiety alone can sabotage math performance, regardless of someone’s skills.
Various researchers found that when you pair math with anxiety, you not only experience memory loss but PHYSICAL PAIN as well. Students already have to endure Physical Education; let’s not add more pain to the syllabus.
Behavioral researchers in one article found positive results when students participated in expressive writing (jotting down their emotions about a test for seven minutes) versus just stewing in silence over their anxiety. The same article suggested that students and their families destress by using an app that incorporates math with their bedtime stories.
So the results seem clear. Two of the best ways of working through math anxiety are:
2) Making math feel like a familiar part of your daily life
That’s where online tutoring apps come in. While homework is an inevitable daily staple of student life, it becomes a large contributor to math anxiety. If you had a resource on hand that could connect you with a 1-to-1 tutor whenever you need one, then you’ve taken care of both issues: a user-friendly interface with open communication.