As Maths teachers, you have no doubt witnessed students experiencing maths anxiety in the classroom. Maths anxiety can be a huge roadblock for students and their progress in Mathematics, which can make it more difficult to bring the whole class along in the learning journey. This is why it is important for teachers to tackle maths anxiety to help students succeed. In this article, we are going to explore some of the reasons why students can fear Mathematics. Then we will explore some strategies to reduce maths anxiety in the classroom.
What is maths anxiety?
Maths anxiety is when a student’s fear of failure or ‘getting it wrong’ blocks them from progressing or even trying in the first place. This fear of failure can cause stress and demotivate students, which leads to avoidance tactics and classroom management issues.
When students can not get past their anxiety, they can shut off and stop trying. When they do this, they’re prevented from reaching their full potential. They can also speak negatively about Mathematics or cause distractions in the classroom, bringing down their peers. Students who start down this slippery slope could get stuck in a cycle of lack of progression for years to come. Maths anxiety does not just affect the weaker students, it can creep in on the stronger students too.
When students experience maths anxiety, they may say to themselves things like, “I can’t do it” or “I am just not good at Maths,” and give up easily.
Some signs of maths anxiety include:
- Being reluctant to start work
- Getting easily distracted or distracting others
- Getting stuck and not asking for help
- Believing there are only two types of people in the world: people who can do Maths, and people who can’t
- Being too afraid to raise their hand
- Not participating in group activities and letting others take over
- Relying on tutoring, mentoring and out-of-hours help.
These are just some of the common signs of maths anxiety, but you may be familiar with more.
How can teachers support these students?
One of the most powerful ways for students to overcome maths anxiety is experiencing success. When a student experiences success early in Mathematics, it builds their confidence and gives them the motivation they need to keep trying and progressing.
We have outlined some strategies you can utilise in your own classes to help students experience success and ultimately overcome maths anxiety.
5 strategies to help your students experience success and overcome maths anxiety
- Cater to students’ abilities
- Consider your students’ different learning styles
- Provide timely feedback
- Monitor student progress
- Use trusted resources to support learning
Strategy 1: Cater to students’ abilities
We have heard it before: if you have 24 students in a class, you have 24 different levels of abilities. With such a wide range of abilities in every Mathematics class, finding timely and meaningful ways to support every student at their own level while taking the whole class through the curriculum can be a huge challenge.
When students have the opportunity to be challenged and learn at their own level they can develop a deeper understanding and gain the confidence to move onto more complex concepts.
There are many strategies out there for catering to student abilities. Here are a few examples:
- Think-pair-share where students first think about a problem, explore it with a peer and then share their learnings with the class.
- Differentiated classroom exercises and homework.
- Creating subgroups within classes with tailored learning outcomes and challenges.
- Group work with mixed abilities but where every member has a set role to play.
- Time at the end of the class to summarise what students have learned to share with the teacher or class.
How Jacaranda can help
Another way to tackle differentiating for the range of abilities in your class is to choose a learning resource that does some of the heavy lifting for you. That’s why we carefully crafted our Maths Quest series around the ideal that no student should be left behind, and no student held back.
Our Maths Quest series (Victorian Curriculum, NSW Australian curriculum and Australian Curriculum) provide many opportunities for differentiation and personalisation, ensuring every student experiences success – not just in the development of skills, but with problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity as well.
Strategy 2: Consider your students’ different learning styles
Just as students are at different levels of abilities, so too do they learn in their own unique way. When a student is presented with many ways to learn and engage with a concept, it can help them understand and experience success.
Here are some of the methods you can use to present a concept to students:
- Reading content
- Tactile objects (Play Doh, match sticks, etc.)
- Online interactivities
- Audio files or podcasts
- Worked examples
- Puzzles or games
There has been a lot of research on learning styles and how to cater to them. This government education guide provides examples of learning styles, which you can use to identify learning styles and come up with various learning strategies.
How Jacaranda can help
In Jacaranda’s Maths Quest series, concepts are presented in many ways to ensure every student has the opportunity to learn, understand and progress, with the help of clear language and carefully sequenced content.
In every Maths Quest title, you will find 150+ videos, interactivities, puzzles, worksheets, games, worked examples and more – all of these resources are designed to give teachers the tools they need to support students no matter their learning style.
Strategy 3: Provide timely feedback
Feedback is the single most powerful influence on student achievement. Students need timely feedback while the attempt is still fresh in their minds. Timely feedback can help students overcome mistakes as they occur and become more independent learners.
The ideal is to give feedback within 24 to 48 hours. This may sound like an impossible task as you can teach as many as 100 or more students on any given day. But as you have probably experienced, as more time passes so does students’ motivation to go back and correct any misconceptions and learn from their mistakes.
How Jacaranda can help
Students get immediate feedback and worked solutions for every question in their Maths Quest title in learnON – this is one of the most powerful features of the platform as feedback is crucial to the learning process.
This instant feedback at the point of learning helps students overcome any misconceptions before they become ingrained and gives them the confidence to keep progressing. It supports students to become more independent learners, while saving teachers a huge amount of time in marking.
Strategy 4: Monitor student progress
Research suggests that students learn more through student progress monitoring. Student progress monitoring allows you to see what level your students are at, whether the class has understood the topic, and helps you provide a differentiated experience.
Part of monitoring student progress involves collecting data to show the student their learning journey and to improve on teacher instructions. It’s crucial to identify students who are demotivated or struggling with maths anxiety, to give them the support they need to succeed. When teachers and students get visibility into learning, it can help identify areas of strength and weakness, motivating students to take ownership of their learning.
How Jacaranda can help
Teachers and students get deep insights into class and student progress with their Maths Quest title in learnON. learnON allows teachers to access student progress reports, activity summaries, exercise results and assignment outcomes in just a few clicks. This allows teachers to easily pinpoint areas of strength and target areas of weakness.
Students also get the same insight into their own learning, allowing them to be more independent and take charge of their own learning.
Strategy 5: Use trusted resources to support learning
We know learning resources will never (and should never) take the place of the teacher, but a great resource will give teachers and learners the tools to support them along their teaching and learning journey.
Your classroom resource should help build students’ foundational skills and knowledge and then challenge them to build upon that to learn new and more difficult concepts. Building that base is extremely important, so it is important to choose a resource that is pitched at the right level with clear language and logical sequencing.
Arguably the biggest factor in overcoming maths anxiety is when a student experiences success. When a student experiences success in Mathematics, it builds their confidence up and allows them to keep progressing to more complex concepts. To help students succeed both in the classroom and at home, teachers should look out for a learning resource that gives students plenty of opportunities to practise and learn concepts in a range of ways (reading, video, feedback and worked solutions, interactivities, worksheets, etc.).
How Jacaranda can help
Not all learning resources are created equal.
We love Maths at Jacaranda and have been proudly creating Australian Mathematics resources for the past 65 years. We constantly seek feedback from real teachers and with many former Maths teachers making up a part of the Jacaranda team, we understand the challenges you face in the classroom, from catering to the wide range of abilities to encouraging students who are struggling to get past their maths anxiety.
That’s why the Maths Quest series was carefully crafted around the idea that no student is held back, and no student is left behind. This means every student – regardless of ability – can experience success in Mathematics and progress through the content with confidence.
With Jacaranda, you have got all the tools you need to help your students succeed.
Finally, while new technologies and systems provide us with valuable tools, they will never take over a teacher’s role in the teaching of Mathematics. Only a teacher knows their students on a personal level and gives them the motivation they need to succeed. That’s why it’s important to remember that your role as a teacher is essential to reducing maths anxiety.
We hope this post helps you in supporting your students in Maths and provided some useful ideas to help assist with maths anxiety. Want to try out the Maths Quest series for your curriculum (Victorian Curriculum, NSW Australian curriculum and Australian Curriculum)? Reach out to your local Jacaranda Consultant today and organise a class trial!