How To Get Over Maths Anxiety

A Form Of Anxiety

Sweaty palms, blood pressure rising and heart palpitations are just some of the symptoms sufferers of maths anxiety may experience when faced with a mathematical equation, or situation. 

Maths anxiety has been around for some time now, but it’s a topic which is either overlooked or not really known about. 

Which is why we’re here to tell you all about it and what steps you can take to try and combat it.

What Is Maths Anxiety?

The Maths Anxiety Trust defines maths anxiety as a “negative emotional reaction to mathematics”, whilst Tobias and Weissbrod in Anxiety and mathematics: an update classify the symptoms of maths anxiety as the following:

“Panic, helplessness, paralysis, and mental disorganisation that arises among some people when they are required to solve a mathematical problem.” 

Maths Anxiety tends to begin in school, but it is something which can continue into adult life. A poll conducted in 2018 by market research company IPSOS Mori found: 

  • 36% of younger people feel anxious about maths 
  • 20% of adults in Great Britain have felt anxious when attempting to solve a maths problem 
  • 80% of adults have never heard of math anxiety. 

From these statistics alone, it’s fair to say more awareness of maths anxiety needs to be raised about  what it is and what we can do to try and tackle it. 

Where Does It Come From? 

Based on research from Young et al. The Neurodevelopmental Basis of Math Anxiety, Math anxiety tends to develop in our early stages at school and has the ability to impact the brain’s functioning in children. 

In adults, it can lead to “detrimental impact on an individual’s long-term professional success” and much of this is due to bad early childhood experience in the classroom with maths, teachers and the embarrassment of being wrong.  

Does It Affect The Brain? 

Young et al. conducted a functional MRI study on 7- to 9-year-old children. Their research and results showed that “math anxiety was associated with hyperactivity in right amygdala regions that are important for processing negative emotions.”  

Suggesting, partaking in maths activities could trigger parts of the brain associated with pain processing in the brain. 

They also found “reduced activity in posterior parietal and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex regions involved in mathematical reasoning.”

How Can You Overcome Maths Anxiety?

Tackling maths anxiety can take place at any age, but the way we tackle it as adults will differ to how it is dealt with in children and younger adults. 

Trying to complete maths workouts is one way of working, testing and challenging not only your maths skills, but any anxieties you have around the subject.

Maths workouts come in various shapes and sizes and provide a fun approach to an otherwise daunting subject. 

TedEd also recommends working towards a “growth mindset.” 

Those who have a “growth mindset” are “Individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others)” and this is how it is believed maths anxiety can be dealt with.  This is due to the fact that those that have growth mindsets tend to put their focus on learning, rather than looking or seeming smart. 

We also have a list of top tips and tricks you can do in your head – easily and quickly. You can read all about them here. 

Don’t suffer in silence, beat your maths anxiety today. Not only will it be a great moment of triumph but it will ease your mind whenever you’re put on the spot with a mathematical problem. 

Sources Cited:

Sajal Azam

One thought on “How To Get Over Maths Anxiety

  1. 20% of the population feel anxious about maths (I think they mean arithmetic) but 80% have never heard of maths anxiety. So we can easily divide the population between four fifths who don’t have a problem and the one fifth who do. That one fifth is a lot of people who have been badly taught.

    Am I cynical or is the problem that in other subjects people get praised for indifferent work but when it comes to arithmetic you can’t get away with this because it’s either right or wrong. Or is it the modern tendency to avoid teaching things by rote and instead encourage the pupils to “discover” things for themselves? Yes for higher levels it is important that we learn to analyse and think for ourselves but we can only do this when we first have a thorough grounding in the facts of our world.

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