Have you ever had a dream where nothing makes sense? You walk around an unfamiliar room, trying to parse out the meaning of things, but it’s as though the whole world got shaken and jumbled. For some teens, that nightmare scenario is a reality.
Past elementary school, math courses become detailed and complex. They are no longer centred on multiplication and division, but rather on high concepts like trigonometric functions, polynomials and logarithmic equations.
When faced with complicated math concepts like these, some students get stressed. They feel pressure to succeed in an unfamiliar and confusing environment. It’s a common issue. So common, in fact, that it has its own name: math anxiety.
According to a recent paper in Psychology Research and Behavior Management, approximately 93% of people experience some degree of math anxiety. For some, it’s a few beads of sweat as they calculate the tip at a restaurant. For others, it is more disruptive.
Let’s take a closer look at how to spot signs of math anxiety and what you, as a parent, can do about it.
The Signs of Math Anxiety
It’s infamously difficult to tell whether a teen is just “being a teen” (i.e., a little dour and mopey) or if they are suffering from stress at school. Nevertheless, here are a few signs you can look for that may indicate math anxiety:
- Avoidance: They drag their heels when faced with math homework or avoid doing it altogether.
- Negativity: They engage in negative self-talk when discussing math. They may maintain that they’ll never be good at it.
- Low grades: While not a sure-fire indication of anxiety, low grades can be evidence that a student has “checked out” of a subject.
- Physical symptoms: Anxiety often (though not always) manifests itself physically. You may notice quick breathing or clammy hands. They may complain of an elevated heart rate or feeling lightheaded.
If you notice any or all of these signs, have a frank conversation with your teen. Make it clear that you aren’t displeased in any way with their performance; you just want to help.
How to Help
First and foremost, make sure they understand that math anxiety isn’t a character flaw or weakness. It is simply a natural reaction to being a little lost. It is possible for them to be good at math, despite what they tell themselves. Practice positive reinforcement with them, celebrating their victories and reframing their non-successes as opportunities for improvement.
For additional help, consider enrolling them in a math course like MCV4U or MPM2Dat an online school. Online schools are flexible, self-paced and feature lots of support. The best ones even have a 24/7 tutor your teen can use. Best of all, at an online school, they do not have to compare their performance against peers.
Finally, think of some fun ways to practice math around the home. Encourage them to talk about math and talk about their feelings surrounding math.
With your support and the help of a passionate online teacher, your teen may discover a renewed passion for mathematics.