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Alleviation of Mathematics Anxiety

A student who has experienced frequent failure in mathematics is unlikely to be motivated to improve his or her performance. It is probable that he or she attributes the failure to bad luck, or difficulty of the subject. The student is likely to believe that increased effort and persistence will not make any difference in the outcome, that he or she has no control over success or failure in mathematics; and to develop a stance of helplessness and passivity (Corral, 1997).

To help change this perception, instruction in actual learning strategies specific to each type of mathematical operation or concept, paired with instruction in positive "self-talk" can be effective. The student will begin to expect success instead of failure, and to see the connection between effort and success.

Learning Strategies

Depending upon the specific circumstances, one or more of the following learning strategies will help a student to master mathematics skills, and to apply those skills to solve real-life problems: use of manipulatives; estimation; simplification of problems through a separation into subunits; elimination of extraneous information; or verbalizing the problem using if-then logic.

It may be helpful for students to develop an organizer, and also a checklist of questions to aid in systematic problem solving as well as the self-checking process. The student can refer to his or her list while solving a problem, until the steps are covered without this reference. An example of an organizer is RAPS (Meltzer, 1996):

A checklist could include these sample questions covering typical errors:

Positive attitude

Following are some suggestions for teaching a student to think positively about mathematics:


Corral, N., & Antia, S. D. (1997). Self-talk: Strategies for success in mathematics. Teaching Exceptional Children, 29, 42-45.

Meltzer, L. J., Roditi, B. N., Haynes, D. P., Biddle, K. R., Paster, M., & Taber, S. E. (1996). Strategies for success: Classroom teaching techniques for students with learning problems. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.