Math Anxiety

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1. Teach your students about growth mindset.

A well-known Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck, did exhaustive research on the power of our beliefs and how changing them in a very simple way can have a profound impact on every facet of our lives.

She found that most people have a “fixed mindset,” which means they believe that their intelligence is fixed. People with a fixed mindset think everyone is born with a set of talents and skills that cannot really be changed. Some people are athletic, some are not. Some people can become musicians, some cannot. Some people are good at math, some are not. They believe that no amount of practice can overcome their natural strengths and weaknesses because they are fixed. They avoid challenges because failure would mean they are neither smart nor talented.

Other people have a “growth mindset,” which means that they believe that their intelligence can change with deliberate practice. They seek out challenges and see failure as the path to growth. They are life-long learners who focus on learning from experiences rather than seeking constant approval.

By teaching your students about growth mindset, you can help them see that mistakes are not something to be ashamed of, but celebrated, for they foster true learning. They may have struggled with math in the past, but that does not mean they are incapable of learning math with the proper practice and support. When giving students feedback on homework, for example, writing something as simple as “I am giving you this feedback because I believe in you and know you can do this!” has been shown to lead to more engagement and higher scores for struggling students.