Math Is Intimidating, But That Can Be A Good Thing

Everyday students face unique challenges in different classroom settings. Facing these challenges day after day can be very daunting for students. This can be especially true when learning math. 

What Makes Learning Math So Intimidating

There are several reasons that make math so intimidating. Each one of these reasons have their own consequences that affect students differently. 

  • The abstract nature of math. Math is a very abstract subject. This means that it is not always easy to see how math relates to the real world. This can make it difficult for students to understand and connect with the material. In math, each new concept builds on the previous concepts. If students don't understand the basics, they will struggle to understand the more advanced concepts.
  • The complexity of math. Math can be a very complex subject. This means that there are often many different ways to solve a problem. This can be overwhelming for students, and it can make it difficult to know where to start. Some students will develop a lack of confidence in their ability to learn math when faced with complex problems with various methods of solving. This lack of confidence can lead to anxiety and stress and even the inability to start a particularly stressful problem. 
  • The pressure to succeed. Students are often under a lot of pressure to succeed in math. This pressure can come from parents, teachers, and even from themselves. This pressure can make it difficult to relax and learn. The pressure to succeed comes with the fear of failing. Students may be afraid of not being good enough, or of being judged by others. This fear can lead to anxiety and stress, which can make it difficult to learn. 

In Dear Mathread actual student descriptions of why math is so intimidating and how teachers can help students overcome it. In a similar article explore what makes math dreadful and how students can overcome it

How We Can Use Student Trepidation to Teach Math

While it is important to understand why students find math intimidating, it is also important to remember that trepidation can be a good thing. Trepidation can motivate students to work hard and to overcome their fears. It can also help students to focus and to pay attention.

Here are some tips for using student trepidation as a good thing to teach math:

  • Acknowledge student trepidation. It is important to acknowledge student trepidation. Let students know that it is normal to feel intimidated by math. This will help them to feel less alone and more supported and willing to face what intimidates them head on. 
  • Help students to understand the material. Make sure that students understand the material. This may require providing additional explanations, using real-world examples, or breaking the material down into smaller steps. Find the particular areas that students are intimidated by and focus on them.
  • Help students to see the relevance of math. Students can be intimidated by learning math because they see no relevance of it in their lives and instead as an added pressure. Show students how math is relevant to their lives. This could be done by connecting math to their interests, or by showing them how math is used in the real world.
  • Provide positive reinforcement. Students may often feel like they are alone in their intimidation. Praise students for their efforts, and give them positive feedback. This will help them to build confidence and to feel good about themselves. Show students that every small success matters and their intimidation will melt away. 

By following these tips, teachers can help students to overcome their trepidation and to learn math effectively.

Main post image by Max Fischer via Pexels

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