Math Anxiety: The Cause And Remedy
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Whether you have a great deal of math skills or are lacking in skills, taking a math test can end up
giving one an incredible amount of anxiety.
As children develop, their natural brain process is to continuously solve problems to help them in
Once they have developed a solution to their problem, they test it. This natural process does not
cause much anxiety because it is a self versus self conflict that usually does not have any repercussions for
anyone but the child and they know they are the only judge of what the outcome is.
When it comes to taking a math test, however, the child knows that they will be judged by someone
else – the teacher and usually the parent. Along having a teacher or parent judge them, they are also thinking much
more about how they are succeeding in the classroom and whether or not they are ‘learning’ the content that is
A bulk of this anxiety comes from not having confidence in foundational math skills that are taught
at a young age. As a child experiences success with these foundational skills the amount of anxiety they have will
One of the most common symptoms of test anxiety is reduced focus which makes it difficult for a student to focus on
a math problem which creates more anxiety. Physical stress is another common symptom of test anxiety. Self-doubt is
the last big one, which leads to decreased confidence. Students need confidence to be able to tackle even the
simplest math problems.
If one is looking to decrease their test anxiety, a few things can be tried. The first would be to make a test
taking strategy that is unique to the tester. This problem can be as simple as “skip the tough ones.”
Obviously the student will need to go back to the problems that were skipped to work them out, but,
a lot of students will get completely flustered on one question early on and make it very difficult to continue
thinking clearly for the rest of the test.
Another great technique to reduce anxiety is to have some type of relaxation technique. This is also a very simple
remedy that could involve deep breathing or even massaging pressure points.
Students can tense up very easily and by placing both hands on either the temples of the head or the
back of the neck and massaging, the student will most likely feel a significant amount of stress relief. Once the
stress is relieved and the student can come out of the cloudy mind state, they will have the ability to refocus and
get back to the task at hand.
If you are a teacher and you have students with bad test anxiety, putting a few extra credit points actually makes
a great difference in student anxiety.
If the student knows there are a few extra credit points available, their stress level drops and
they end up doing much better on the rest of the test.
If the same test was given without extra credit, that same student will most likely do significantly
worse because they did not have that understanding that there are extra credit points available.
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