As the saying goes, “Maslow before Bloom.” These three words sum up decades of research that show how a sense of physical and emotional safety is the foundation for the development of social, emotional, and academic competencies. Learning environments that are emotionally supportive are associated with a variety of positive outcomes in mathematics classrooms, such as improved mathematics achievement, greater engagement, greater effort, and less fear of making mistakes.
Math anxiety is more than just being nervous about math. It is characterized by feelings of panic, tension, and helplessness aroused by doing math or even just thinking about it (Ashcraft & Kirk, 2001). Researchers think that about 20 percent of the population suffers from it. But having mathematical anxiety does not mean that a student is not good at math. Even accomplished mathematicians, such as Laurent Schwartz and Maryam Mirzakhani, reported having suffered from it. Math anxiety is not the result of doing poorly in mathematics; rather, a student may do poorly in mathematics because they feel anxious about it.