Which Came First: Math Anxiety or Poor Performance?

Molly Spalding
Molly Spalding
29 Oct
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Which came first: math anxiety or poor performance? Well, math anxiety may be both the cause and the result of low achievement. It’s a vicious cycle where once students have math anxiety they avoid mathematical tasks which leads to gaps in their learning.  When students fall behind they become more anxious.

So how can you help students break this cycle?

Tip #3 Work on the mathematical building blocks.

(To see Tips #1 and #2, check out these previous blog posts: 1) Overcoming Math Anxiety  2) Are Parents to Blame?

Start with the basics. If students develop a firm grasp on the fundamentals of math, things like basic number sense and spatial abilities, it may help prevent the onset of math anxiety. If students are at-risk of developing math anxiety, or if they already have math anxiety, targeted exercises designed to improve their basic math competencies can help to regulate or reduce it.

Here are some ideas you can try to help students strengthen their fundamental math knowledge.

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

Diagnostic Assessment: Administering a diagnostic assessment at the beginning of the year and before you start a new topic is a great way to gather data on your students’ understanding of the prerequisites. If you use the digital Topic Readiness Assessment in enVision A|G|A and enVision Integrated, it will identify gaps in students’ prerequisite knowledge and automatically assign an individualized study plan. This study plan concentrates on filling the gaps students have through additional digital instruction and  practice.

Differentiated Library: To support and address the needs of all learners, having differentiated resources is a must. At the end of each lesson, administer a lesson quiz or exit ticket. Based on the students’ result, you can give the students who have demonstrated concept mastery an enrichment activity, while you meet in a small group with the struggling students. To make this easier for you, every lesson in enVision A|G|A and enVision Integrated has the following differentiated assignments – all available as editable worksheets and most as a digital assignment powered by MathXL for School.

  • Reteach to Build Understanding
  • Additional Practice
  • Enrichment
  • Mathematical Literacy and Vocabulary

Virtual Nerd: These tutorial videos, which are aligned to every lesson in the enVision A|G|A and enVision Integrated programs, fend off student frustration when they need a math refresher. The instructional videos are clear, with accompanying demonstrations and step-by-step solutions. Students have the ability to drive down to review prerequisite skills, allowing them to master the basics while applying those skills to on-level content. With hundreds of videos to choose from, students can easily find a video to suit the need at hand. The free Virtual Nerd app is available (App Store| Google Play) for students to download on their mobile devices for on-the-go access to the tutorials.

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”.

To break the math anxiety/poor performance cycle, we need to work on the basics. Take advantage of free resources, like the Virtual Nerd app, that will close the gaps in students’ prerequisite knowledge. This will build students’ confidence so that math anxiety no longer hinders their learning.

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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