“In math there’s always one right answer, and if you can’t find it you’ve failed. That makes me crazy.”

How to overcome math anxiety?

Below is a list of reasons people have anxiety and a few suggestions how to overcome math anxiety. You might like to know writers have suggested that a young Albert Einstein was rubbish at mental arithmetic, a teachers even famously said he wouldn’t amount to anything! However with the help of his mother and a different style of teaching at a new school he was propelled towards his genius discoveries.

Here we list some of the major factors that contribute to math anxiety in students and helpful ideas to motivate children to study math and How to overcome math anxiety.

  • No.1 Math Mind Set

  • Math mind set : A major factor in the development of math anxiety is a child’s schooling. It is well known that good teachers love the subject they are teaching. On the other hand, if the teacher feels negative towards math, scientist have shown, this impacts greatly on their students.

  • Idea : how to overcome math anxiety : if you suspect your child’s teachers isn’t that keen on maths. Try and work extra hard to praise and encourage at home to combat the negative effects at school.


“I’ve hated math ever since I was nine years old, when my father grounded me for a week because I couldn’t learn my multiplication tables.”

Try sites like Table Fables to help with basics arithmetic.

  • No.2 Enthusiastic motivation

  • Enthusiastic motivation : An important factor in motivating children to study math is that everyone involved in their maths learning journey stays positive about math – if possible, enthusiastic!

  • Idea : how to overcome math anxiety Daily mantras are very useful for tricking the brain into believing something. Try “I will get better at maths, I can do this.” repeated 10 x a day for a week to see if you can “fake it till you make it”. If you fool your brain into believe you can do something, eventually you will. If you are having problems with the basics try websites that are fun and engaging. If you don’t have the basic foundation math principles like times table and dividing any further math is going to be incredibly difficult. If a building has shaky foundations it will soon fall over the more you build on it. The same is true of maths.

  • No.3 Write down math anxieties

  • Write down math anxieties : Scientist have proven that if students write down their anxiety’s before tests or exams they will perform better. Get children to write down all their maths anxieties and fears of failure, the more the better. Then look at the list with the child and talk about how you can either overcome their fears or have a rational response to that fear

  • Example : how to overcome math anxiety Write down the fear eg “I’m going to fail I always do.” Then write down or talk about rational response - “You have passed tests before you can and will again. You may not know all the answers but you will know lots.”

    Scientist have proven this works so it’s worth having a go.

  • No.4 Mistakes should be valued

  • Mistakes should be VALUED : scientist have proven that brains can GROW and one of the BEST ways of growing that grey matter is by making mistakes.

  • Idea : how to over come math anxiety Instead of pointing out mistakes, ask how they came to that answer. While responding, the child will either work out where they went wrong or you will understand their thought process better. Sites like Table Fables teach multiplication and dividing using comedy animation which children love math and really help them with the basics which are essential to succeed in maths.


“Math exams terrify me. My palms get sweaty, I breathe too fast, and often I can’t even make my eyes focus on the paper. It’s worse if I look around, because I’d see everybody else working, and know that I’m the only one who can’t do it.”

  • No.5 Take the emphasis off tests

  • Take the emphasis off tests : Tests are a part of school but they shouldn't be the ultimate goal.

    The TRUE goal of school mathematics is students are able to use maths in real life and not be anxious eg work out rent, mortgages, savings, graphs and not freaking out when the boss ask for an analyst of figures or expenses.

  • Tests, especially timed tests, are one of the main reasons for math anxiety in children. Make sure they write down their fears (see point above) practice breathing exercises to calm themselves down (below).

  • Idea : how to over come math anxiety

  •  Make sure they know the basics math facts. You wouldn't send a soldier into battle without armour, children also need armour they need to have basic knowledge of mental arithmetic to cope with exams, if they can’t do mental arithmetic easily or remember their times tables or dividing math exams will feel like a battle ground!

“Some people can do math—not me!”

“Some people can do math—not me!”

No.6 Growth Mind Set

Don't present math as an unlearnable, difficult subject. Children with normal intelligence CAN learn ALL the math presented in the grade school curriculum (and that has been proven by scientists). If teachers or other adults tell a child that he or she cannot learn math or "is not good at math", children believe that. Funnily enough children do actually believe what we tell them! This causes them to develop a "fixed mindset" towards their intelligence and learning. It helps children enormously if they have a “growth mindset”and believe it’s possible to grow their brain and develop.

It may seem hard at first but with a some practice you get into the swing of it. Even if you don’t believe it at first pretend that you can learn anything and then voila you can. It really is as easy as that.


Idea : how to overcome math anxiety

If you do really hate math, maybe try and explain to your child what triggered those feeling when younger and how you are working to over come them. This could help stop the cycle of negative feelings towards maths so they don’t develop the same math anxiety.


Study techniques :

No. 1 Laugh :

This may seem a strange technique for studying but it works. If you are laughing it’s very hard to be anxious! You will probably have to experiment with what makes you laugh but try a few things and I promise it works.


Get the student to act out what they have to learn. Or if they prefer you act it out for them. Even if you aren’t a great actor the process of trying to explain it by acting will get the mind working out what they need to learn and they won’t be anxious (make sure you do this 1:1 so neither of you are embarrassed!) .

How to over come math anxiety Example : Learning Roman numerical for a test : act out the no.89 the student has to make a LXXXIX with their arms.

You may feel like a real idiot but it works. The physically acting it out you will remember it for longer. You may not need to remember roman numeral but the same principle will work for formulas you need to remember or other subjects.


No. 2 You tube :

Again not an obvious answer! You Tube is amazing for learning maths at your own speed and you can watch it over and over until it makes sense. Also sites like Table Fables uses very funny animation to teach basic maths which children love and give them a solid math foundation. A building will fall down if it doesn’t have good foundations. The same is true with math.

Funny Poems or Stories to remember things :

One way to remember a list of information in order is to make up a funny stories, using the first letter (or use a word you think is important) and make up a story. It really works and is easy once you get the hang of it.

How to over come math anxiety Example : How to find area of volume formulas.

Area of Rectangle : Length x Width

Area of Triangle : 1/2 Base x Height

Volume of Pyramid : 1/3 Area of the Base x Height

Area of a Circle : π (pie) r squared

How to remember : There was a boring rectangle who very tall and wide, his friend Triangle always ate 1/2 a pizza base but was really tall. As for their large volume friend Pyramid he only ate a 1/3 of his pizza base but was also very tall. Last there was Circle who only ate pies that began with the letter r and he was really square.

Read this over a couple of times before exams /test and you will be able to remember all the formulas. Even the act of making up the funny stories keeps the information in your head for longer.

No. 3 Notes taking & Practice :

You can now make notes on computers or apps which might work for you but some people have suggested that the physical act of writing things down makes it go into your head more.

Personally I can write reams and reams of information and not take anything in until I start turning those notes into funny stories! However you might prefer more traditional highlighters or coloured cards. Again personally I feel you have to do something a bit funnier to get it to stick into your head. Below are some suggestions.

Unfortunately for math, practice is the best form of improving which is why it might be so hard to learn. However if you change the wording on practice questions to make you laugh then suddenly it becomes a pleasure not a chore.

Example 1 : Change the questions so it amuses you so already you are laughing and relax before you try and tackle the question.

Original question : A car averages 27 miles per gallon. If gas costs $4.04 per gallon, how much will the gas cost for this car to travel 2,727 typical miles?

Change question to : A car full of elephants averages 27 miles per gallon. If gas cost $4.04 per gallon (which the elephants thing is very expensive) how much will the gas cost for the car to travel 2,727 where the jungle is and the elephants can roam free and finally. not poo in the car!

Example 2 :

Original question : Work out two thousand three hundred and seven ADD one thousand and twenty- four.

Change question to : Two thousand three hundred and seven ADD one thousand and twenty-four = (answer is how many times you farts in a year!)


No. 4 Play games :

The more you play card games, board games, anything involving dice or counting will massively reduce anxiety and increase confidence.

Card Games suggestion :

Place 16 cards (no face cards) numbers side up on a flat surface. The objective is to roll two dice (you can down load a free dice app on phones), and use the two numbers to “make” a value seen on one of the cards. 

If a 2 and a 3 are rolled, the player can use 2 × 3 to make 6, or 2 + 3 to make 5, or 3 − 2 to make 1 (the Ace can represent 1). Each time a value is made, the card is removed.

Set a timer for no more than 5 minutes, and challenge your child to eliminate as many cards as she can before the time is up.

Hopefully this activity focuses looking at numbers in a fun way and that two numbers can make up lots of different answers.

There are a bunch of variations of this game, so you can choose one that works for your child. For instance, you can have kids playing against one another, instead of timing one child alone. And if being timed makes your child feel stressed, you can skip the timer altogether.

You can also try using more or fewer cards at a time.

The key to any warm-up playing math games :

  • Keep it short and fun

  • Keep it simple - these activities are to increase confidence not decrease it!

  • Keep it engaging - if they aren’t enjoying move on and look for something that will engage them.

The goal is to get kids to access what they already know. This gives them the boost they need before working on a more challenging math assignments. If the children doesn't know their basics get them to practice on fun sites like Table Fables which uses comedy animation to engage children.