There is probably no other school subject that has the ability to cause as much anguish to students, parents, and teachers as mathematics. Yet ironically, the most effective antidote when it comes to how to understand math is to remove the mental block and make way for the satisfaction that comes with understanding maths questions.

It’s important to know that most mathematics fears are rooted in a bad experience. For instance, when a student is shamed for not grasping a concept at the pace that the teacher has to go through the syllabus, this can create a mental block resulting in the need for extra help to solve math problems.

It may not be easy but mathematics is of vital importance to any student’s school career.

Feelings of anxiety and panic are common

Sadly, the fear of maths can cause real anxiety in children and prevent them from solving even simple math problems. But with a little help, this psychological block can be stopped dead in its tracks and children can be shown how to understand math and even how to be good in mathematics.

If you are looking for tips to overcome your fear of Maths and even to help you with how to understand math, then this article is for you. Keep reading.

Five Tips to Banish Fear of Maths

1. Take Personal Maths Tuition

To look at how to banish the fear of maths, one must first look at the underlying causes of maths anxiety, all of which can stymie the student in knowing how to be good in mathematics. Here are some of those reasons:

  • Difficulty in finding help to solve math problems.
  • Teachers who are impatient, unavailable for questions, or intimidating.
  • Shyness on the part of the student.
  • Classroom pressure can make understanding maths questions difficult.
  • Pressure from parents.

Sometimes all of these elements can even conspire to create an anxiety storm that overwhelms the student. When this happens the best method to approach the problem is to find a private maths tutor to unblock the problem and help the student, not only with understanding maths questions at hand but by actually showing them how to be good in mathematics for the rest of their lives.

Choosing the right tutor should be done with care and it should be revealed to them that they will potentially be dealing with some ‘maths panic.’

And while this article is aimed at parents, if you, as a student, are reading and this and have been wondering how to improve my maths, be reassured, a one-on-one approach that focuses on your particular problem areas is definitely the answer.

Think about it, in a class of thirty or so students, your maths problem can get lost because teachers have little time to devote to the individual. On the other hand, private lessons will offer you the undivided attention of a teacher who will be able to offer you maths study tips that will ultimately help to solve math problems during school and exams.

What is more, when a student is seated beside the tutor, rather than in front of the board, he or she does not feel the weight of that hierarchy, so to speak, which can be so intimidating.

There is no doubt that having a private tutor in the comfort of a home setting can open up dialogue and create an atmosphere that can leave the student thinking, ‘this is how to improve my maths’!

student solving Maths sums and equations
A private Maths tutor can help identify blockages and set you on the path to success. - Source; Unsplash

So while a private maths tutor can represent an added expense for the parents, it is an investment well worth investigating when you consider how important it is for both school and life to gain that necessary confidence when it comes to how to understand math.

Remember that a private maths tutor can identify the blockage of understanding maths and offer help to solve math problems in only a few lessons. This is something that a child’s regular school teacher may never be able to do.

One of the best places in South Africa to find a private maths tutor is the Superprof website. Superprof hosts tutors from every corner of South Africa and you can search by location and actually find one that is near to you. Alternatively, if your child does not mind being tutored via webcam, you could choose a tutor from anywhere in the country.

When choosing a tutor, bear in mind that when it comes to the subject of maths the right teacher can either contribute to success or help to create mental blocks. Therefore, take your time in selecting someone that connects well with your child and fully understands what needs to be done to help them improve their maths.

One of the great benefits of choosing Superprof tutors is that that in many cases the first lesson is free. This provides a great opportunity for upfront discussion and planning your goals before committing to a term of extra lessons.

If the tutor has been with Superprof for some time, there will also be reviews from other students available on their profile. All of this makes it easier to make a wise choice.

2. Use Practical Maths Resources

If your child is asking questions like ‘how to improve my maths’ – it can be more serious than you realise. Maths is a complex and abstract subject and if a child loses his or her way at the foundational level of understanding the language of maths, it can affect their whole school career.

Anne Siety who is an educational psychologist recommends what she calls ‘practical materials’ when it comes to helping children who want to know how to understand math.

The concept involves using materials like puzzles, pebbles, and marbles to give meaning to subtraction, addition, and to help to solve math problems.

It can even use modelling clay to provide shape for fractions and pie charts. In short, it is a creative, fun, and memorable method.

Through this process, you will also notice why a photographic memory is such an enviable trait when it comes to how to be good in mathematics. According to Siety, these are methods that are only successful when the teacher is passionate, engaging, and willing to give an entire maths lesson based on soft caramels.

3. Make Maths Books Look Special

One of the best maths study tips available is really to unlock some of the psychological blockages preventing a child from excelling. Often, when the school system fails a student, maths books and homework are simply a representation of the child’s suffering.

Try dedicating books to the problem areas of your child’s maths. Such a book with its own unique identity could provide a symbol of freedom for a maths block.

Also, try reading the book Who’s Afraid of Maths by Anne Siety where she explains the different types of blockages and how to untangle them.

If your child is mature enough to understand, a book like this could really help answer their question, ‘how to improve my maths’.

4. Identify The Mental Block

Amazingly, nobody is actually bad at mathematics. In fact, with the right maths study tips and extra tuition, a student can go from mediocre to exceptional in no time at all. Before that can happen, it is important to identify the origin of the blockage that is preventing the student from advancing.

maths equations written on blackboard
It is important to revise the basics, before attempting complicated Maths problems. - Source: Pixabay

As an educational psychologist, Siety takes a very Freudian approach to say that a blockage in maths can be a result of a family or personal problem.

She elaborates on this idea by saying that she believes that when a child has a maths problem it is rarely an intelligence problem but rather something internal that prevents the accessing of ideas and thinking skills. All of this, says Siety, is related to the child’s unique personal history.

According to Siety, identifying a maths problem, especially a specific one, is to draw a parallel with an individual’s personal story. She says that this is an essential step to find the answers, that in short are actually already within the individual.

5. Re-Learn the Maths Basics

When a student is struggling to attempt more advanced mathematics, is not necessarily because they have reached a limit. Rather, it could be that the strong foundations that make up basic math skills are lacking. For instance, are the instructions and terminology of maths being understood?

If not, this is a blockage that can be easily resolved by the lexicon of maths. Basically, this means undertaking a complete revision of all of the definitions in the maths language. While this might seem like a simplistic solution, remember that the psychological block may be equally simple!

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Niki is a content writer from Cape Town, South Africa, who is passionate about words, strategic communication and using words to help create and maintain brand personas. Niki has a PR and marketing background, but her happiest place is when she is bringing a story to life on a page.