How to Boost Self-Confidence in Mathematics

by on October 16, 2012 in Reflections with No Comments »


Many recent high school graduates are experiencing certain difficulties in dealing with college undergraduate mathematics. A lot of researchers on students in college performance reveal that many first-year students are coming underprepared for college life and are frequently frustrated by sequential failure in remedial math sequence and drop out of college. “For some, it may be that their confidence has been severely dented by someone who taught them maths [sic] in a forceful or unsympathetic manner, so that they came to believe that they were ‘no good at maths [sic]’” (Fewings, 2011).

As an Adjunct Faculty for Human Services, I am working with students registered for MTH 111 math class at MCNY. My observations of in-class student performances is that students under-perform in mathematics simply because they lack the self-confidence.

Why do we need to boost self-confidence?

Students widely share the common misconception that they are no good at doing math. For many reasons, simple mathematics transform into some scary dragon-headed monster that paralyzes its victims by its horrible look. However, once students realize that the story they get used to telling themselves about their math performance is a myth, the horrible monster that has been gatekeeping their future away vanishes, leaving only a shadow of its former horror.

At the present moment, students need to complete their mathematics course. Successful completion of math classes will bring students closer to getting a degree within their chosen career field. Further, success in doing mathematics will relieve students from constant pressure and anxiety potentially affecting other non-math courses, for the greater the number of times you have achieved success, the greater your confidence is likely to be (Fewings, 2011)

How can students boost self-confidence in math?

What do students need to know and do in order to boost their math performance? Victoria Jasztal (2010) advises that students need to “practice positive self-talk.” Instead of saying “I am no good at math” say that “I can do this problem, I can solve it.” In addition to positive self-talk, students need to create and follow through with a scheduled plan and a to-do list. As Jasztal notes, “Make to-do lists, particularly in your school agenda or a notebook so you know if you are staying on top of things. It is very easy to forget to complete important things because we get caught up in other things.” Leo Babauta suggests that students need to go further than thinking positive: students need to put it in action. You are what you do, and so if you change what you do, you change what you are. Act in a positive way, take action instead of telling yourself you can’t, be positive. Talk to people in a positive way, put energy into your actions. You’ll soon start to notice a difference (Babauta, 2012).

Many articles with good recommendations on boosting your self-confidence in math are already posted online. However, I would like to provide some recommendations on how to overcome those things that hold students back from raising their self-confidence in math class. Students should be more proactive, ask more questions, and keep good class notes for further review of the problems and solutions that were done in class. They should contact their professor and ask questions outside of class about mathematical concepts and problem solving strategies. They should study and practice, because by studying more, students will empower themselves with knowledge. And by becoming more knowledgeable, students will become more confident.

Students should also set aside one hour to practice problems discussed during class. By practicing more, students will become better problem solvers and increase their competence about mathematic applications and solutions. Frequently, during in-class discussions, students encounter difficulty in understanding how the problems are solved. In these cases, students want to rely more on procedural steps rather than on understanding why they need to follow certain solution steps.


Sometimes math problems seem so hard, and student self-confidence is so low, that students start to complain about an instructor’s teaching style. To resolve this situation, I would like to suggest that students need to focus more on solutions instead of problems. By doing that, students will raise their confidence.


Fewings, F., 2011. Developing confidence in mathematics, – BRAINBOXX (Accessed on 9/21/2012)
Jasztal, V., 2010. Boosting Self-Confidence: A Guide for Teachers, Parents and Students. (Accessed on 9/25/2012)
Babauta, L, 2012. 25 Killer Actions to Boost Your Self-Confidence (Accessed on 10/2/2012)


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