Math is Not Terrifying! But Standardized Tests and Adult Phobias are Eroding Children’s Math Confidence

Jan 29, 2020 | Alamo Ranch

Like it or not, and there are many who fall on both sides of that equation (pun intended), we are surrounded by math in all aspects of our lives.  This makes math an important part of each child’s education.  However, many build up a fear of math … or math anxiety. 

Math anxiety in children can be traced to the time frame when they are being taught the fundamental aspects of the subject.  Negative experiences heighten the fear.  From “drill and kill” applications to standardized tests, these experiences have a measurable impact on students losing interest in math and developing a fear of the content. 

Standardized tests have contributed to students who have different learning styles and patterns being ignored.  They begin to fall behind and develop math knowledge gaps at a young age which leads to challenges in problem solving ability and math confidence in the future. 

Indifference towards math increases as students face the pressures of advanced material and raised expectations as they get older.  This can be exacerbated by the anxiety of Mom and Dad and the adults teaching them, further creating an aversion to the subject. 

To help children develop an interest and their skills in math, it is important to adopt measures that engage young students in a productive way, building their self-confidence and problem-solving ability. 

Often, we hear students ask “why do I need to know this” or “when will I use this.” By tying math instruction and math tutoring with real world examples, we’re able to help give children a fresh perspective on math.  Fractions are taught by dividing chocolate bars or cookies, geometry links to their pictures in art class, etc.  Tapping into a child’s natural curiosity about numbers, shapes and angles will enhance their long-term problem-solving skills. 

Multiple Teaching Methods

At Mathnasium of Alamo Ranch, located in San Antonio, we know children respond differently based on the teaching methods and mediums being used.  We combine visual, tactile and auditory techniques.  This multi-format learning process helps children breakdown and understand the essentials of each problem. 

Breaking Down Concepts

Many times, a child’s anxiety of math turns into fear of embarrassment due to their inability to understand the problem.  To overcome this, Mathnasium of Alamo Ranch teaches children to examine each problem as a collection of individual elements.  Younger students may not immediately know “half of 24;” but they can tell you half of 20 and half of 4.  When partnered with a multi-format learning approach, this gives children multiple ways to learn and master a concept. 

Teaching Students in Way that Makes Sense to the Individual

No two children learn the same material in the same way. This is especially true when talking about math. Students understand a problem in different ways. Forcing a single way of solving a problem limits a child’s creativity and makes problem solving one-dimensional. Children must be encouraged to strengthen their unique problem-solving methods and share their perspective on it. This allows children, math instructors and tutors engaged in learning to benefit from these different approaches and eventually make the process of solving a problem more interesting and engaging.


Combatting math anxiety requires a change in attitude towards math.  Not from the children, but from parents and those educating students.  By teaching math in a way that makes sense, and applying real world applications, children benefit and overcome the intimidation of the subject, becoming confident in their math and problem-solving abilities.