There are many factors that contribute to students being scared of math and science in school, but teachers and parents shouldn’t allow them to shy away and avoid the subjects completely.
What’s going on?
Math and science can make people feel unintelligent, challenged, and frustrated. While they may be the more difficult subjects for many students, they are also some of the most interesting and beneficial subjects students will encounter. Do some students believe that they are truly unable to comprehend math and science, or are they simply frightened of and intimidated by these subjects? The answer for most is the latter.
Fear is what these students are experiencing. Can math and science be difficult subjects? Yes. Are math and science impossible to understand and grasp? No. Teachers and parents have a duty to help students stop hating math and science. With the right mindset, most things are possible. Yes, these subjects might make many feel anxious and some students even experience math anxiety, which is a negative emotional reaction to any type of mathematical problem solving. Psychologist Christina B. Young describes math anxiety in “The Neurodevelopmental Basis of Math Anxiety” as occurring in the “same part of the brain that responds to fearful situations.” Anxiety is a natural response to a challenging or intimidating situation. Although math and science might not be strong subjects among all students, teachers should help them overcome math anxiety and develop a plan to help these students succeed. Also, students should be pushed to dig deep within themselves and find the strength and courage to at least try to learn these fantastic subjects – the pride they feel when they experience success will be even greater because they had to overcome a challenge to get there.
Pushing students outside of their comfort zones – and supporting them once they get there
Being terrified is a GREAT thing. Being uncomfortable is even better because staying in one’s comfort zone isn’t how life should be lived. If you stay within your comfort zone, chances are that you’re not learning anything new. Math and science have layers upon layers of information to be learned and connected. Once each layer is peeled back, I believe it makes the comprehension of the subjects a little more clear. As a recent student myself, I understand the feeling of being scared is uncomfortable – in fact, sometimes it made me want to cry and was a territory I would have preferred to avoid – but it helped me learn.
To be successful in school, you don’t need to be great at every single subject. The overall definition of learning is the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being TAUGHT. Too many students think that they have to automatically understand every new concept in order to be “smart.” In reality, the struggle to learn something new typically results in a deeper understanding, and students who struggled are more likely to remember what they learned long after they’ve taken the test.
For students to be able to understand their full potential while in school , they need a clear understanding of what STEM actually is and the potential careers that lay ahead for students with strong STEM skills. Talk to your students about the amazing careers available in STEM fields to help them see the real-world applications of the concepts they are learning.
Parents – and more importantly STEM educators – understand that although math and science are more difficult subjects, students can experience success by working hard and engaging in these classes. So let’s stop pointing the finger at educators and empower students to understand that learning is a process, and that failure can be an important part of that process.
There will always be some students who think that they’re just not good at math, but we can support them and model a growth mindset to help them overcome their anxiety and push themselves toward success.