Western Wyoming Community College

Math Anxiety


What is Math Anxiety? Ways to Manage Math Anxiety Suggested Books for Math Anxiety

What is Math Anxiety?

Anxiety comes in two forms Somatic and Cognitive.  Students can also suffer from Test Anxiety and/or Mathematics Anxiety, Dr. Paul D. Noting, a Learning Specialist also notes that an individual can have more then one of these categories.  By identifying your behavior type, one can seek help from instructors and counselors.

Professor Freeman  has posted a math anxiety test on her web site to help you identify if have anxiety issues.

For those individuals who battle math anxiety, Professor Freeman has also posted Ten Ways to Reduce Math Anxiety 

Frequently math anxiety is due to being ill pre-paired.  Complete this survey by Dr. Carolyn Hopper, to identify if you need to focus on math skills or anxiety management.

Students can also fall victim to Math Myths  look at this site developed by Southwest Texas State University   to see if any of these myths sound familiar.


Studying math is different from studying any other subject.  Saint Louis University has built a site that provides suggestions on How to be Successful in Mathematics.

For students battling math anxiety, humor can help alleviate some of the stress and pressure. Sandra L. Davis as created the Math Anxiety Bill of Rights

Math Anxiety Code of Responsibilities   by Kathy Acker gives students helpful hints on how to over-come difficulties in math. The code also reaffirms that students have the power to change.


Ways to Manage Math & Test Anxiety

Manage Your Stress; Don’t Let Stress Manage You

Stress management is an important part of achieving optimal health and success because students who are anxious do not learn.  The following website will give you an opportunity to evaluate your stress reduction skills and give you some guidelines for developing your stress management skills.  


Stress Reduction Assessment

Mistake Phobia is Common

Sometimes people allow their lives to become “stuck” because of a mistake they made.  Many people suffer from mistake phobia, which can be a problem because the human mind needs to be challenged with new ideas in order to grow.   Dr. Ginger Blume discusses the characteristics exhibited by people who suffer from mistake phobia, and she offers some solutions for positive change. 


Mistake Phobia - Solutions for Positive Change

Be Test Wise

The word “test” sends many students into a test-taking frenzy.   It is easier to do well on exams if you don’t exaggerate the pressure on yourself.  Don’t give a test magical power over your perceived self-worth.  Academic tests are not a matter of life and death.  The way to deal with tests is to keep them in perspective. Here is a website that suggests great techniques for approaching test taking with confidence.  This site also includes a test taking checklist so you can evaluate your development as a test-wise student….just in time for final exams!


Techniques for Test taking with Confidence - Test Taking Checklist


Example of Index Cards

Problem Solving Can Be Fun!

Problem solving is a chance to practice two types of thinking.  One type involves opening up alternatives and considering as many options as possible.  Your creative thinking skills come into play as you generate new definitions of the problem and brainstorm possible solutions.  The other type of thinking involves narrowing down.  Out of all the possibilities you generated, you choose one idea for follow-up or one solution to act on.  Consider the four P’s of problem solving: 

1.  Define the Problem

Problems are subtle creatures, skilled at hiding themselves.  In defining problems, we bring them out in the open.  We admit that the problem exists, and that’s powerful.  In addition, a problem that is clearly defined is half solved.  To define a problem effectively, understand what the problem is.  Tell the truth about what’s present in your life right now, without shame or blame…and be specific.

2.  Generate Possibilities

Open up.  Brainstorm as many possible solutions to the problem as you can.   Write your ideas down.  By compiling your thoughts on paper forces you to be more accurate and precise. 

3.  Create a Plan

After rereading your problem definition and list of possibilities, choose the solutions that seem most workable.  Think about which specific actions will reduce the gap between what you have, and what you want. 

4.  Perform your Plan  

The final step gets you off your chair and out into the world.  Now you actually do what you planned.  There are few things as satisfying as checking items off your to-do list, especially when you know they are helping you solve a problem.  Ultimately, our skill in solving problems lies in what we do.  Through the quality of our actions, we become the architect of our success!

Source: “Becoming a Master Student, ninth ed.” Dave Ellis.  Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston.

Suggested Math Anxiety Books:

Math for the Anxious: building basic skills by Rosanne Proga, McGraw-Hill Higher Education. Boston, 2005. ISBN 0-07-288584-X.

“Many of the strategies discussed in my book for overcoming math anxiety results from discussions with my students who had problems learning mathematics” Rosanne Proga.

Conquering Math Anxiety, 2nd edition, by Cynthia Arem, Brooks/Cole Thomson Learning. Pacifica Grove, CA, 2003. ISBN 0-534-38634-2.

“If you feel anxious when it comes to math or math tests, or avoid math because you lack confidence in your skills, the anxiety-management and math-study techniques in this book and CD are just what you need!!” Denise Brown.

Mastering Mathematics, How to Be a Great Math Student, 3rd edition, by Richard Manning Smith. Brooks/Cole Thomson Learning. Pacifica Grove, CA, 1998. ISBN 0-534-34947-1.

“Providing solid tips for every stage of study, Mastering Mathematics stress the importance of a positive attitude and give you the tools to succeed in your math course.” Richard Manning Smith.


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Anxiety can be broken down into two fields: test anxiety and mathematics anxiety.  When combined they can be deadly to a student’s G.P.A and self-esteem. 

What is anxiety?  Anxiety is stress, tension and strain brought onto one’s body and mind.  Anxiety can be broken down into two types:

Somatic – loss control of body, some symptoms are sweaty palms, pain in neck or sick to the stomach.

Cognitive- loss of concentration, some of the symptoms is negative self-talk, feelings of doubt, or mind wanders from test.


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Test Anxiety is a learned behavior that can be unlearned.  The following methods often create test anxiety:

  • Parents, friends or teachers may pass their bias to the student.
  • Student may believe there is a connection between grade and self-worth.
  • Fear of alienating parents, family or friends due to poor grades.
  • Anxiety may be due to not feeling that they are not in control.

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Mathematics anxiety can be extreme; often caused by having a negative attitude due to a previous bad experience.  Studies show that one-half of all students in a developmental mathematics class suffer forms of this type of anxiety.  The good new is that a student can manage this behavior but they must learn to manage BOTH the stress as well as improve the basic mathematic skills.


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Paul D. Noting, Ph.D. Learning Specialist

Winning at Math; your guide to learning mathematics through successful study skills.

Academic Success Press, INC. 1991