Instructional Strategies for Reducing Student Math Anxiety
In order to create citizens able to compete in a technologically-driven global market, it is critical that education supports and prepares all students in mathematics. Math anxiety greatly affects student performance in math. Math anxiety is negatively correlated with working memory. There are several versions of a survey that measures math anxiety. Instructional strategies that address working memory on the items in the survey should reduce math anxiety. Introduction
According to the US Department of Education (2007) 75% of the fastest growing occupations require significant science and mathematics training (STEM). Our education system needs to prepare all students to compete in a global market dominated by STEM. Students know this world is their future. And many students are keenly aware they are not succeeding in the mathematics classroom. There are lots of people writing lots of papers and editorials pointing lots of fingers. The job of the teacher is to meet the students where they are and move them forward in their education. Research has shown that math anxiety greatly affects student performance in math (Ashcraft, 2007). Reducing a student’s math anxiety should result in an increase in that student’s learning and achievement. The secondary math teacher seeking to improve his or her teaching and helping their students achieve must focus on those instructional strategies that can be accomplished within the constraints of teaching math to one hundred twenty high school students seen for fifty minutes per day, five days per week, for thirty-six weeks per year. Math anxiety interferes with my students’ achievement of their dreams for themselves. Anything that is an obstacle to my students’ learning is something that needs to be addressed. Literature Review
A recent editorial (Large, 2013) described a principal who changed his approach to student discipline based on how early childhood trauma can affect brain development. The tool mentioned in the editorial for quantifying traumatic childhood events is known as the Adverse Childhood Experience Survey (ACES). I noticed that many of my students who struggle with math tend to have higher ACES scores. I began this literature review seeking research that would correlate ACES with math achievement. I could find no research linking them. Instead of research correlating ACES with math achievement, I found abundant literature about math anxiety and classroom instructional strategies that interested me as a high-school math teacher. I found many articles written by neurologists for other neurologists about how the brain learns. I found many articles written by educators for other educators about classroom instructional strategies. I found few articles written by neurologists for educators and few articles written by educators for neurologists that connected how the brain works to classroom instructional strategies. Most of the articles that did bridge these two disciplines were not applicable to the high school math classroom. The purpose of this literature review is to investigate classroom instructional strategies that reduce math anxiety. One emergent theme is that instructional strategies targeting working memory and/or cognitive load should work to lower math anxiety. The research for this review revealed several versions of a tested survey that accurately measures math anxiety. A second theme of this paper will focus on instructional strategies that target the items on one version of this survey. This literature review will conclude by identifying three possible avenues for future research. Math Anxiety
Most people would define math anxiety as being anxious about math. Math anxiety is most often considered when examining student math performance. Ashcraft (2002) defines math anxiety as a feeling of tension, apprehension, or fear that interferes with math performance. Kagan (1987)...
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