Overcoming Math Anxiety: How Teachers Play a Part

Molly Spalding
Molly Spalding
3 Dec
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Numerous studies (here, here, and here) have shown the link between how teachers feel about math and the math learning outcomes of their students. These studies have predominantly focused on teacher math anxiety in elementary school, however, a recent study determined that even in high school, teachers with a higher level of math anxiety are associated with lower math achievement among their ninth-grade students, regardless of students’ prior achievement and mindset.

Why might teacher math anxiety relate to lower achievement among their students? Studies have shown that  in comparison to teachers with lower math anxiety, math-anxious teachers:

These various factors can create an unpleasant learning experience which in turn affects students’ math achievement. How can teachers address this?

Tip #4 Promote Mathematical Discourse and Professional Development.

To see Tips 1-3, check out these previous blog posts:1) Overcoming Math Anxiety  2) Are Parents to Blame? 3) Which Came First: Math Anxiety or Poor Performance? 

Using a curriculum that embeds professional development and weaves the best practices into the lesson design is a great place to start helping teachers feel more confident with their mathematics instruction

  • Promote mathematical discourse in the classroom. enVision A|G|A and enVision Integrated include Effective Teaching Practices (ETP) in the Teacher’s Edition. These probing questions support the eight effective mathematics teaching practices from NCTM:
    • Establish mathematics goals to focus learning
    • Implement tasks that promote reasoning and problem solving
    • Use and connect mathematical representations
    • Facilitate meaningful mathematical discourse
    • Pose purposeful questions
    • Build procedural fluency from conceptual understanding
    • Support productive struggle in learning mathematics
    • Elicit and use evidence of student thinking

Teachers can use the ETP questions in the Teacher’s Edition to facilitate mathematical discourse and support productive struggle in learning mathematics so that students can work independently and in groups to develop and use the math practices.

  • Use professional development videos to improve practice. On-demand professional development videos give teachers valuable information for effective instruction when they need it. enVision A|G|A and enVision Integrated include videos that show a classroom in action. Interviews with the teacher cover planning and reflection.
  • Work on math practices, not just content. To ensure students understand the math and become proficient, teachers need to help students develop math practices. enVision A|G|A and enVision Integrated include Habits of Mind questions throughout the instruction to emphasize the development of students’ mathematical habits of mind. By responding to these questions, students develop the thought processes and skills used by proficient mathematical thinkers.

Even the best students can suffer from math anxiety. How can you help?

  • Use manipulatives and interactive visuals to solidify concepts. Interactives powered by Desmos, the best in class graphing calculator and geometry tools, are embedded throughout the lesson launches, examples, and exercise sets in enVision A|G|A and enVision Integrated. Students make connections between tables, graphs, and equations in a powerful interactive learning experience. These interactives are pre-built to save teachers time and embedded in the daily lesson to make them  easy to use.
  • Teach test-taking strategies and give time for test preparation. Math anxiety appears to be highest on test days. To help with this, teachers need to teach test-taking strategies, as well as give the students ample practice. Every lesson in enVision A|G|A and enVision Integrated includes items that mimic what students will encounter on next-generation assessments, the SAT or ACT, and performance tasks.

If you want to see how these resources are intertwined in a full core curriculum like enVision A|G|A or enVision Integrated, click here and select “Try a free demo today.”  

The way teachers feel in the classroom and the indirect messages they convey through their practices may be an important factor underlying students’ math achievement. Professional development on using effective teaching practices gives teachers the confidence they need to overcome both their own and their students’ math anxiety.

Even the best students can suffer from math anxiety. How can you help?

About the Author:
Molly Spalding is a former math teacher who now works on creating and marketing Pearson high school math programs. She is passionate about education and helping students see the beauty in mathematics. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Industrial Engineering from the Pennsylvania State University and a Masters of Science in Secondary Mathematics Education from Northwestern University.

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