Student Success

Unlocking Academic Success: How to Help Students Conquer Math Anxiety

Jonny Zivku
Jonny Zivku
Director, Product Marketing

Math anxiety, characterized by fear and apprehension toward performing mathematical calculations, is a significant challenge for students. This is particularly prevalent during their first year in higher education, as they step into their new-found independence.This period marks a major transition for students and compounds the weight of first-year anxiety, especially having just moved from high school to college or university, often relocating from their family home to new living situations like dormitories. On top of these monumental milestones and the stresses that accompany these changes, students must also tackle getting good grades and completing a higher degree of academics. 

Despite the commonality of math courses in STEM programs and other courses of study, a considerable number of first-year students perceive math with dread, contributing to a silent barrier known as math anxiety. Studies indicate that nearly half of the students may abandon their mathematics studies due to this issue.

For educators and leaders in higher education, it’s crucial to find strategies that foster success and confidence in math from the start. Here are five recommendations to help students excel in math, overcome math anxiety, and decrease the likelihood of dropping out from math and STEM subjects:

1. Offer Students Early Access to Math Assessment Technology

Having to jump right into new technology students haven’t used before to take a for-credit assessment can be daunting. Eliminate your students’ nerves by providing early access to the software and practice exercises in the technology. With modern technology tools, such as Mӧbius, you can provide your students with access to the environment early—allowing them to use the software, explore the user interface, and even practice going through a test to understand the entire test-taking process.

2. Give Students Space to Practice

Look for online learning platforms that offer unlimited, randomized, and automatically graded study assessments, which gives students opportunities to practice at their own pace and on their own terms. This self-directed practice helps students overcome their math anxieties, sharpen their skills, and achieve more confidence in their math abilities. This kind of study space allows them to practice course material, achieve mastery, ease self-doubt and fear, and will ultimately lead them to perform better during tests and exams. 

3. Meet Your Students Where They Are: Adaptive Learning

Students learn in different ways. In some higher-ed courses, students may only use one to two traditional learning methods and the resources available to them—which may not be effective for their own learning styles and knowledge retention. By using adaptive technology, students can learn at their own speed and timeframe to achieve the expected outcomes for your math classes. Whether it’s moving down different paths to arrive at a correct answer, automatic remediation, or enrichment as the course progresses, using technology that has adaptive learning gives your students the right amount of prompts and questions to ensure your students can retain concepts and succeed. (PS: If you’re looking to going down the adaptive learning bunny hole, download our free ebook called “Adaptive Testing: Effective Personalized Assessment for STEM Education.”)

4. Promote Self Reflection 

Help your students shift from an “I’m so bad at math” mantra into one of confidence. By addressing students’ math-related fears, you can transform their attitude toward the subject. Consider pairing your current LMS with Mӧbius to unlock features that help you maintain a personal connection with your students—encourage self reflection through polls, reminders, and reflective questions to make math more engaging and less intimidating as they are going through their lessons and exams.

5. Allow Breaks

Offering students the opportunity to pause their work can be remarkably effective in combating math anxiety. Breaks can help students reset their thought patterns and approach their work with a refreshed perspective. 

Additionally, multiple attempts in assessments and the ability for students to “keep the best grade” lets students dive in, take a stab at the work, and offers them that needed break to step away and have a more confident second try once the impact of that first fearful attempt has passed.

Maybe we can weave in allowing multiple attempts in assessments and “keeping the best grade” along with this point. They are related as a student could dive in and take a stab at their work and find they need to step away from it as you note, or have another go at it after an initial attempt to give them a more confident “second” try now that the impact of that first fearful attempt has passed.

Unlocking Academic Success

Addressing math anxiety is essential for promoting a positive outlook toward math and STEM education. With the right tools and support, we can help you create an environment that reduces dropout rates and lets your students achieve their academic and professional aspirations.

Click here to connect with a DigtalEd expert to learn more about Mӧbius.