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Published at Friday, 10 May 2019. **math worksheet**. By Lacie Leclerc.

Where does this anxiety start? One factor may be that children haven’t developed positive associations with math before they start school, they way they do with reading. While parents read with children and help them develop reading skills, doing math for fun with parents at home is almost unheard of. When children encounter math at school, the concepts are often entirely new, and the only preparation they will have received are the messages they might have picked up from others, like the idea that math is really hard, or girls aren’t good at math.

Until recently, scientists and educators thought that math anxiety first appears when children begin to learn complicated mathematics (such as algebra). This would mean that young children (who do not yet do complicated math) do not experience math anxiety. However, recent research has shown that some children as young as 6 years old say that they feel anxious about math. A team of researchers asked 154 children in grades 1 and 2 questions like, “how do you feel when taking a big test in your math class?” [3] The children had to indicate how nervous they felt by pointing to a position on a scale, ranging from a very nervous face on the left to a calm face on the right. (See Figure 1 for a picture of the scale.) After answering these questions, the children took a math test that measured their math abilities. These researchers found that almost half of the children who participated in the study said that they were at least somewhat nervous about doing math [3]. Also, children with higher math anxiety got worse scores on the math test. This research tells us that math anxiety and the relationship between math anxiety and math ability develops when children are very young.

“For kids who have better verbal abilities, just being able to talk out their strategy and give a good explanation of what they want to do and how they should solve it, and maybe getting corrective feedback along the way, can be really helpful,” says Dr. Pagirsky. Similarly, students can write out their strategy during homework or a test. In this approach students are walking themselves through how to think about the problem, at their own pace and in language they might feel more comfortable in. With this technique they might find that they understand more than they realize about how to solve the problem, and switching to a more verbal approach helps them think more clearly.

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