Increased agitation, heart palpitations, clammy hands, apprehension, and brain fog—these are just some of the symptoms students with math anxiety experience when confronted with math problems or homework. But symptoms like negative-self talk, disdain for math, low achievement, and isolation might be harder to spot. Typically, these take some time to observe.
If you recognize these symptoms in yourself or someone else you know, chances are they are caused by a bad experience or series of bad experiences with math that over time develop anxiety. And this affects learning in the long term, resulting in low academic achievement.
But how can you know for sure if this is math anxiety and not something else, like dyscalculia or inadequate learning methods? You should consult a professional or math tutor for an expert opinion but until then, here are five key questions to help you identify math anxiety.
How anxious are you when going to math class?
Anyone can be nervous when going to math class. Typically, nervousness is a normal reaction to something that could be potentially scary. For example, if you know you are falling behind in class and haven’t done your homework, you might feel nervous going to class because you know you could be confronted with a low grade or extra work. But anxiety manifests differently, often accompanied by a physical reaction such as increased blood pressure, sweatiness, or stomach aches. If you experience the latter when going to math class, observe to what degree you experience the symptoms and address the issue with your teacher, tutor, or parents.
How apprehensive are you about solving math problems?
Similar to the previous point, you can become nervous when you know you lack the understanding required for solving certain math problems. You can also be nervous if you are required to solve math problems in front of the class but might be comfortable doing it on your own when no one is watching you. Determine what kind of math problems you are apprehensive about and try to solve them on your own. If you are apprehensive about almost any type of math problem and feel anxious when you are on your own as well, you could be struggling with math anxiety. Ensure you tell your tutor, teacher, or parents to get the support you need to overcome this issue.
Are you always worried you are going to fail your math class?
Homework, tests, and problem-solving in front of the class are typical scenarios that cause students with math anxiety to panic. They are always worried one of these situations will happen and cause them to fail the class. If these thoughts are often on your mind and you feel increased anxiety when thinking about tests, homework, or grading in general, you should address this with your teacher and openly express how you feel.
Do you feel like you understand math but forget how to solve problems during tests or when called on the board?
Students with math anxiety oftentimes have the capacity and knowledge to manipulate numbers and solve problems. However, in certain situations, they might experience mental disorganization, paralysis, or helplessness that prevents them from using their skills to achieve their academic goals. Determine what causes you to feel the anxiety, what types of situations or settings, and talk about them with your teachers and tutors. You have the potential to excel at math and achieve great academic results, so don’t let anxiety stand in your way.
How anxious are you when having to apply math in real-life scenarios?
Paying for groceries, splitting the bill with a friend at a restaurant, or interpreting mathematical information in the media are just a few real-life situations that involve some level of math. For many people, solving these real-life math problems has become second nature. But students with math anxiety struggle in real-life situations when they know they have to calculate something as simple as the sum of the items they purchased. And this can make everyday life a bit more stressful for them. Determine if you become anxious in real-life situations when you have to use math, and work with a tutor to help alleviate your anxiety.
Support is always available
If you feel anxious about math and relate to the key points in this article, consider requesting support from a math tutor. When you’re struggling with math anxiety, it’s important to address it and prevent it from negatively impacting your academic results in the long term.
A math tutor can help you develop your own learning style so that you can consolidate your knowledge of math, become more confident in your skills, alleviate math anxiety, and ultimately achieve greater academic results.
Here at OMC, we provide diverse math programs and ensure each student is placed in the right environment for their needs and goals. We assess each student’s experience of math and academic level to help them overcome their struggles with math and achieve better results. For more information, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.