4 Ways to Help Students Overcome Their Math Fear

Published: Feb. 21, 2020, 3:47 p.m.

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Math has a reputation as the one subject everyone loves to hate. It certainly has its devotees, but many students and teachers alike dread the subject.

The last thing you want is for students to be afraid of a subject. This actively hinders their ability to learn it and use it. So let's talk about some ways to help get past the all-too-common fear of math.

1. Make Math Fun

Making the classroom fun can help kids learn. Math doesn't have to be dry exercises. There are plenty of fun ways to study math.

Games, math manipulatives, or student contests are some obvious ways to spice things up. This doesn't have to be strictly for elementary school kids, but it's especially well-suited to that audience.

Math can be fairly abstract. This can be a challenge for a lot of people, especially for the younger kids. A lot of the fun stuff is very hands-on. This can help young kids -- or kids who think differently -- really grasp the subject.

2. Tie Math to Something They Love

Better student engagement improves student learning. One way to get students engaged is to help them see how math connects to other subjects they already love.

If they love physics, then find them some appealing calculus materials, such as A Tour of the Calculus. If they love history or social studies, introduce them to statistics. If they aren't into politics or debate, How to Lie with Statistics is a terrific book.

But be mindful of respecting their boundaries and earning their trust. Don't be too invasive or pushy. Don't make them feel like you are interrogating them.

3. Explore Alternative Options

Students are unique individuals who learn in their own ways. Not every teaching style is a fit for every student. While you may be limited in how flexible your classroom can be, there are usually some options to explore.

For example, if you have access to an educational software program, see if some combination of classroom and individualized learning within the program may work. If you have more than one option, let students try out each one and see which one they like best.

You can also try pairing a struggling student with another student or help them find online or in-person tutoring.

4. Help Them See Math as an Asset

Find ways to make math relevant to their needs and their lives. Have a conversation in your class about when and how math is used in everyday life, from cooking measurements to leaving a tip at a restaurant, to doing taxes or calculating how much of a percentage of income to ask for in a raise!

Math can be a joy to learn and to teach. Student performance can improve dramatically if students stop dreading the subject. As a math teacher, be sure you communicate your love of math and why you love it. You may pick up some math fans along the way.

Thank you to our guest writer, Lewis Robinson.