Student Success

Math Anxiety: The Wicked Problem Higher Ed Can’t Ignore (and How We’re Tackling It)

Natalya Kulagina
Natalya Kulagina
Product Owner

As a company that works in the higher education technology space, we’re familiar with the dreaded phrase “math anxiety.” It’s a pervasive issue that impacts student success, course completion rates, and even career choices. But, what if you were told that simply aiming for “early success” – like passing grades – isn’t enough to truly address this problem?

Let’s take a look at the journey students face when it comes to math anxiety, using the “No Easy Way” diagram:

Credit: PipDecks

  • Problem: A student enters post-secondary education with pre-existing math anxiety or develops it due to a challenging course.
  • Early Success: They may manage to scrape by with a passing grade but this masks the underlying issue.
  • Setback: When faced with more complex math concepts, their anxiety intensifies, leading to a decline in performance.
  • Crisis: This could manifest as failing grades, dropping the course, or even switching majors.
  • Recovery: Some students may find ways to cope; but it’s often a long, arduous process.
  • Better Place: Even if students manage to work through their math anxiety, without a better way of coping with it, it’s unlikely to be the better place they hoped it would be.

Notice how this journey doesn’t follow a simple, linear path. That’s because math anxiety isn’t just a hurdle to overcome; it’s a wicked problem. It’s complex, multifaceted, and deeply rooted in a student’s belief system and experiences. The effects of math anxiety can linger—leading to lower self-esteem, avoidance of math-related tasks, and reduced opportunities in higher education and the workforce. A truly better place for students is one where they not only overcome math anxiety but also develop the resilience and confidence to thrive in a world where math is increasingly essential.

Shifting the Focus: Beyond Early Success

Our most forward-thinking customers understand this. They’re not just aiming for quick fixes; they’re embracing a more robust approach to math education that tackles anxiety head-on. They’re focused on:

  • A Growth Mindset: Fostering a belief in students that they can improve their math skills through effort and perseverance.
  • Personalized Learning: Providing tailored instruction and support to meet each student’s unique needs and learning style.
  • Supportive Environments: Creating classrooms and online spaces where students feel safe to ask questions, make mistakes, and learn from each other.

How Möbius Empowers This Shift

At DigitalEd, we’re building technology to support this transformative approach. Möbius helps to create an entire ecosystem designed to help students conquer math anxiety:

  • Algorithmic Randomization: Provide students with a wealth of automatically graded practice materials through algorithmic randomization of questions.
  • Interactive Content: Engage students with dynamic visuals, simulations, and real-world applications of math.
  • Data-Driven Insights: Provide instructors with the analytics they need to identify at-risk students and intervene early.

To further support our customers, DigitalEd is undertaking a major platform redesign effort. We understand that educators need tools that are intuitive, efficient, and effective in delivering high-quality math education. Our redesigned platform will feature a streamlined user interface, improved accessibility, and enhanced data visualization capabilities. Instructors will be able to create engaging learning experiences, track student progress more effectively, and identify areas where additional support is needed.

If you’re ready to move beyond “early success” and embark on a journey towards a truly better place for your students, let’s talk. We’re here to help you build courses that empower every student to reach their full potential.



Natalya Kulagina is the Product Owner at DigitalEd. With over 10 years in EdTech industry, Natalya focuses on bridging user research, business requirements and design & implementation strategy to deliver the best product experience to customers.