What is Math Anxiety?

Do you have students who seem to freeze every time they are asked to solve a math problem? Or do they avoid math class any chance they can get? 

These could be signs of math anxiety, which is an incredibly common issue that many students suffer with. In fact, around 93% of all adults in America have admitted to experiencing some level of math anxiety in their lives. With those numbers, it is a surprise math anxiety isn’t a more popular term in schools across the country. 

If some of your students seem to shy away from or get upset by math, it could be that they are experiencing this issue and need some extra assistance to work through and eventually overcome it.

But what exactly is math anxiety and how does one seek to get rid of it so math class isn’t a dreaded part of the day? We will go over these definitions and give you the tools to help your students get some respite from their anxiety and get back to enjoying their studies.

What is Math Anxiety?

Math anxiety is defined as feelings of apprehension and increased physiological reactivity when individuals deal with math, such as when they have to manipulate numbers, solve mathematical problems, or when they are exposed to an evaluative situation connected to math. 

While many students dislike or have a hard time with math, math anxiety is much more than just a dislike for the subject. This issue can become a real problem for students and it can get so bad that it can stop the brain from performing and can start a self-perpetuating cycle of math avoidance, which leads to low achievement in the subject and fear when having to deal with it.

Signs and Symptoms 

There are clear signs and physical symptoms to look out for if you are worried that your child, student or someone close to you is experiencing math anxiety. 


Math anxiety and math avoidance are very much connected. If you have a student that uses any excuse to leave the classroom during math class, it could be that they are experiencing anxiety. While of course children sometimes want to get out of work, more often than not it is a cry for help and should be met with understanding and compassion. Students with high levels of math anxiety tend to avoid mathematics at all costs.


When you call on your students, do they freeze up? Math anxiety makes it so any math-related question can make them feel extremely stressed. This in turn can prohibit them from full access to their working memory, making it almost impossible to think clearly, especially with an audience of peers. Many times, they even know the answer but just cannot access the part of their brain to be able to get it out. 

High Emotions

Becoming overly emotional through tears or anger might signal high anxiety, especially if those emotions appear only during math. Students who experience math anxiety tend to be very hard on themselves and work under the false assumption that being good at math means getting correct answers quickly. 

Low achievement

Low scores or missed assignments can also signal that the student is suffering. When a student avoids math, it follows that their grades suffer for it. These low grades aren’t seen as a natural conclusion to their anxiety, but that they are bad at math and so the cycle for them continues. Stopping these cycles and letting the student know they aren’t alone are huge steps in getting them over their math anxiety. 

Overcoming Math Anxiety

Here are a few suggestions to help overcome math anxiety: 

  • Work on math daily. Keep it fresh in their minds. Little bits at a time instead of all at once may help lessen stress. Try different approaches to math learning. There is no ONE way to teach a student. 
  • Make sure the student attends class. This seems easy but avoidance is one of the key signals of math anxiety. Get organized! 
  • Positive feedback always. The student is already hard enough on themselves, make sure to encourage and engage with them in a positive manner to help foster good feelings towards math. 
  • Speak with their parents. Make sure that the parents or guardians are aware that the student needs extra care and understanding. Anxiety can be debilitating, especially for a younger person who is struggling with self-image already. 

We Keep Students Engaged and Excited About Math

At De Alba Math Center, we know not every student learns the same and we are compassionate to all who want to try out our math lessons. Our electronic math STAAR-aligned resources have been designed to keep students engaged and learning while still having fun.

Our workbooks are easily accessible online and fully compatible with Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, and they offer electronic annotation for both teachers and students. We also offer fun and engaging printables for hands-on learning opportunities that are TEKS-standard and STAAR-aligned. 

Bring the fun back into your math classroom. Contact us today or check out our product page for quality and accessible math solutions for your students.


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