Math Study Skills – Math Anxiety, Positive Attitudes

March 23, 2010 at 9:28 am Leave a comment

A student with math anxiety faces an uphill battle to learn and understand mathematics. In this article I’ll share a brief assignment focused on resetting a student’s attitude towards math. This homework assignment takes only a few minutes of class time, but the benefits to individual students can be huge.


Math anxiety causes many students to think negatively about math. A positive attitude will lead to more success than a negative attitude.

  • Jot down some of the negative thoughts that you have about math and your ability to learn and understand mathematics.
  • Write each one of these thoughts on a note card.
  • On the other side of the note card, write the exact opposite statement on the other side. For example, if you write “I am not smart enough to learn mathematics,” on the other side of the card, you should write “I am smart. I do well in all of my classes, and I can learn mathematics also!”
  • Once you have finished your note cards, cycle through the positive thoughts on a regular basis.


On the next day of class ask students to share some of their thoughts, both negative and positive. Some students will be uncomfortable sharing, so I always invite them to come discuss their thoughts during office hours. The main idea is to get students to acknowledge their negative thoughts, while at the same time fostering a shift in attitude towards one that is more positive.


A little confidence will go a long way towards improving a student’s performance in class. Encourage your students to have the confidence to sit in the front row and ask questions during class. I always explain that having your questions answered will increase your understanding and your chances for a better grade on the next exam. It is also good for students to understand that there will be several students with the same question, that they are not the “only one” who doesn’t understand.


I am a math instructor at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA. Each Tuesday I post an article related to Math Study Skills on my blog. If there’s a particular study skill you’d like me to address, or if you have a question or a comment, please let me know. You can reach me through the contact page on my website –


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