Mathematics is not about numbers, equations, computations, or algorithms; it is about understanding. –William Paul Thurston
A conversation between a child and a parent is always fun and engaging, until it hits the roadblock called “math.” The heart starts pounding faster, and careless mistakes start happening. In other words, math anxiety or phobia takes over. Math anxiety is defined as a feeling of apprehension that interferes with performance in math, the manipulation of numbers, and the solving of mathematical problems in a variety of ordinary life and academic situations. While math anxiety is often born in growing years in siloed classrooms, its impact spills over and lasts longer in one’s life than one can imagine.
Math anxiety and the exam of life
A vast percentage of Americans indicate that they experience some level of math anxiety. Children with math anxiety find it challenging to learn new math concepts. This impact is not just limited to their scores in exams but extends to basic math concepts in daily life situations. Struck by math anxiety, children’s problem-solving capabilities remain underdeveloped. This often shuts their minds off to anything that’s even remotely connected to math. This can potentially lead to cumulative gaps in math proficiency over time and impact their career choices as well.
A study published in the International Journal of Education, Psychology and Counseling states that “There is a significant relationship between mathematics anxiety and the course and career choice of Grade-11 students.” So, when it comes to chasing a successful career or enjoying a job, confidence in math can help.
When the LHS of math doesn’t equal to RHS of confidence
Having butterflies in the stomach in a math class is a common feeling among school-going children. But when these shivers spread to other aspects of life and impact the confidence of a child, it becomes a cause of concern. People who have had consistent math anxiety while growing up can find it difficult to manage their financial lives. However, the student who is more comfortable in math goes on to take more prudent financial decisions.
The exponential impact of math anxiety on life skills
Not feeling confident about the challenges of math can also lead to avoidance of challenges in everyday life. Lack of critical thinking, analytical skills, and low levels of self-esteem are also common among people with math anxiety. Conversely, when children feel confident about math, they are more likely to shine in various avenues of life as adults.
Subtract anxiety, add confidence
The answer to math anxiety is not as difficult as it seems. It is converting the negatives into positives, just like math! For instance, the numbers that scare a person can be conversely used to build confidence. However, it’s not possible to turn this around without the encouragement from teachers and parents.
Teachers: Inspired learning in the classroom
Teachers play a vital role in engaging the students in class and making the curriculum, even math, interesting. Researchers believe that math-anxious teachers and their teaching strategies have the potential to shape students’ math achievement. They need to be aware of the students’ learning journeys and must create a conducive environment for them. By turning math problems into fun games, teachers can help reduce the anxieties of students.
Parents: Shared discoveries at home
Children see. Children do. This is true even for math. As parents exhibit greater confidence in their own abilities in math, the more confident the children can be. In fact, parents can even discuss their own fears and draw out strategies to help children gain confidence.
Derive a solution with tech
The perfect solution to overcoming math anxiety is understanding it thoroughly and then practicing it regularly. One great way to do it is by tapping into the power of one big obsession of children these days – gaming. This approach takes something children love and fuses it with another that they are scared of and create a unique experience – game-based learning.
What makes game-based learning different from gaming?
Games and game-based learning are often used interchangeably, though incorrectly. Games are merely digital interactions that are fun and rewarding. They engage children but are not aimed at enhancing their knowledge or skills. On the other hand, when a game theory is applied in learning, it helps children boost their knowledge and achieve a certain goal. Thus, educational games are highly recommended by experts to let students understand and practice the basics of math.
With the aid of advanced technologies, children can learn math in an attractive and motivating way. While peer pressure can make them feel inferior, educational games let them do their best in a non-judgmental environment, without the fear of being judged. Game-led learning gives children an open canvas and doesn’t need a supervising pair of eyes.
Gamification can count on a number of technologies
From AR and VR to artificial intelligence and beyond, technologies are reinventing the future of digital game-based learning across ages. AI is not limited to science fiction any longer. It is woven into the fabric of our everyday lives, from self-driving cars to math classrooms. Driven by AI, educational games create a compelling experience that students keep coming back to. It ushers them into a world away from the typical classroom setting and helps them learn math in ways they least expect to.
With the world becoming smaller, our learning devices are also fitting into the compact space of a mobile phone. As 5G promises a breakthrough with enhanced experiences, mobile gaming is likely to attract more people into gaming. And if gaming offers the double benefit of learning, it’s high up on the list of students and parents as well.
Up your game with a strategy
While digital games and apps can be educational and fun for most of the students, what makes them more engaging is to find a game that matches the interests, maturity, and needs of the student.
Game-based math learning boosts students’ ability to reason, understand underlying concepts, and find solutions to complex math problems. Educational games motivate students to find creative solutions and drive them to accelerate their learning, having fun all the while.
In reality, educational games just help the students understand math concepts and remember them for a long time. The discussion students have with each other to create a long-lasting learning effect adds to the confidence. Together, it makes the student feel equal to their peers and empowered.
The equation of games and math
While many institutions strive to get students interested in math, gaming offers an engaging solution. Making the right moves in a game can take a student high up on the math charts.
- Choosing game-based learning encourages strategic mathematical thinking. Students find innovative strategies to solve problems and strengthen their understanding of numbers.
- Repeatedly playing math-related games can help develop computational fluency. Digital games present irresistible opportunities for practicing math with a touch of fun.
- Game-led learning can help students to develop familiarity with the number system. Students can master their computational skills to build a deeper understanding of concepts and improve math performance.
- Games support a school-to-home connection. Going beyond school hours and reliance on teachers, parents can also aid schools in math. They can enhance children’s mathematical thinking and improve performance by playing educational games with them at home.
On one hand, while game-based math learning plays a great role in relieving anxiety, they also increase screen time for strained little eyes. But these games in essence also serve as brain teasers. The time spent learning through playing math games enriches a student’s life manifold.
Interest balances the math anxiety
Children love to play. Some like outdoors while some are hooked on to board games. With technology, another group of children is emerging – the ones who love to play digital games. Every time they get in the chaos of homework and assignments, playing educational games brings them back to learning in a fun way. Since they are engaged in an activity they love to and are challenged by, they enjoy every part of this learning journey. Sans any fear of failure, children can up their score of strategic thinking, problem-solving, and fluency in math – without even realizing the pressure.
Every problem has a unique solution. Every student is different, and so should the choice of educational games be. In a learning context, here’s how a learning-focused game can help find the right balance of interest while minimizing any ill effects.
- What’s the age and maturity? Children aren’t always as mature as their age in years. It’s important to choose a game that is right for a child’s mental maturity. A game with a shooting sequence for a 7-year old is as misfit as a game with cute cartoons for a 12-year-old.
- What are their skills? When it comes to gaming, the overall interests of a child also play an important part. Children who are not inclined to reading books are more likely to prefer games with lesser text. Knowing a child’s strengths and challenges can help make a smarter choice in educational games.
- What’s the pace? Some children learn faster, while some others are a bit slow in their grasping speed. Today, educational games can be personalized to match each child’s learning path. This ensures that every child can gain meaningfully with every move they make in the games. They are not compared to anyone faster or slower than them.
Moving on from school grades to life goals
Today, numerous mission-based, multi-level games are designed like complex math problems. This solution is based on the children’s capabilities to think on their feet and strategize in a fast-paced fantasy environment. This translates into a real-world environment and empowers children to act faster and better. Therefore, it pays to gamify the math learning journey and beat math anxiety.
At Integra, we help education and learning services providers experiment and innovate within their space by providing the much-needed bandwidth through our digital content development, and XR in learning solutions (AR/VR/MR/360°videos). Our team of experts can help you design innovative and impactful learning interventions for your learners. Contact us today to learn more about how we can support you with this transformation!