Overcoming Math anxiety

How many times have we heard people say ‘I am not a numbers person’ or ‘Math gives me the jitters’? Many times, it would seem. Math anxiety is, at the very basic level, a fear of using numbers in any form, be it calculating or understanding concepts through numbers and data, large or small. 

The Mathematical Association of America has said that according to some estimates, 93% of American adults experience some form of Math anxiety. Math anxiety has been studied by psychologists and scientists for years, the first such identification of ‘number anxiety’ going way back to 1957. 

An initial understanding of Math anxiety tried to separate it from general anxiety and performance. If we are confident in Math, we perform better at it. The Program for International Student Assessment conducted a massive global study of 15-year-old students across 64 countries in 2012. The study found that Math anxiety was negatively related to Math performance. Students with high levels of Math anxiety performed poorly in the subject compared to those who displayed lower levels of anxiety. The Math anxiety lights up a fear centre in the brain, and it shuts down the problem-solving ability of the student, even though he/she is very capable. 

Math anxiety’s negative impact 

Math anxiety is very real, and could prevent a student from reaching his/her optimum career potential. The lack of confidence in Math, and the early years of negative beliefs about one’s innate ability with numbers is known to lead to a persistent anxiety that is prevalent throughout one’s student years and even later. As a result, many students hesitate to choose STEM, instead opting for subjects that do not involve Math. Even though they may have a great ability to grasp complicated concepts, and the intellect to solve problems, students evade STEM subjects so as not to deal with numbers on a daily basis. 

Gender inequality

Several studies show that math anxiety seems to be higher in females than in males, although gender-related differences regarding math performance are small or non-existent. This illustrates that math anxiety has a gender bias due to the impact of gender stereotypes. These stereotypes generate subconscious self-barriers among girls, who regard themselves as less capable of performing well in math and STEM.

Math at work

As the future of work demands more use of Big Data, analytics and quantifying human experiences, the need for talent in numbers is only set to increase. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated that between 2016 and 2026, there will be a 28% increase in occupations that use math heavily. This means that students who are comfortable with Math can lean into these professions and have better job prospects. But what about those dealing with Math anxiety? It will be a choice of facing the anxiety and overcoming it, or finding other occupations that do not need Math. 

Overcoming Math anxiety

The love (or the hate) for Math has seeds sown in childhood. Parents and teachers have a crucial role to play in making math fun for children. They can do this by ensuring that their own anxiety, if any, is not transferred to the child. 

It is also important to break stereotypes and imaginaries concerning math: We need to overturn the perception that maths is a difficult, boring and men-concerning subject.
Parents can be conscious of introducing Math concepts of problem-solving in everyday life situations. Math should be positioned as a fun subject through games, puzzles and fun activities that take the fear out of using numbers and calculation. Also, schools and institutions must perform a task to draw attention to women role models in STEM. 

Technology can help make Math fun in the larger context of game-playing, problem-solving and fun-based learning activities. Apps and websites with an interactive experience can appeal to students’ achievement goals, therefore reducing the fear of numbers. 

Dealing with Math anxiety demands a holistic societal approach with increased awareness at all points of interaction in a student’s upbringing – home, school, education system and peer group. The good news is that Math anxiety is increasingly being recognised as a psychological problem. The solutions are forthcoming, too, if we are willing to pay attention. 


  • Math anxiety is real. Here’s how to help your child avoid it.
  • The math-anxiety performance link. A global phenomenon.
  • Frontiers in psychology: Gender differences regarding the impact of math anxiety on arithmetic performance in second and fourth graders
  • Harvard business Review: Americans need to get over their fear of math.


5 reasons to switch to online software

In the last few years, digital tools are gaining popularity. As in many other aspects of life, digitalization is finding its place in the laboratory environment. It is not a surprise. The list of advantages that the switch to online software has in day-to-day work is long.

On the other hand, the jump from paper to digital can be a bit overwhelming at times. To help you in your decision, here is a list of 5 reasons why you should consider making the move, if you haven’t done it yet. 


Coronavirus showed us how important it is to be able to access your data and your work when you are far away from your laboratory or workplace. Now that we are leaving the pandemic behind, there’s still plenty of situations where we need to work remotely: when you work from home as a way to improve work-life balance (specially important to solve gender gap 1, 2); when you are abroad for a conference or visiting another lab; or even when you move forward in your career and start a new position. In all these cases, the flexibility of online software can be a great advantage: You can access it anytime, anywhere and from any device. The possibilities are virtually endless. 


One of the biggest concerns in science is reproducibility. According to a Nature’s survey3 of 1,576 researchers, 52% of them think that there is a significant “crisis” of reproducibility. Under the same line, an online poll of members of the American Society for Cell Biologist4, more than 70% of those surveyed afirm to have tried and failed to reproduce an external experiment, and even more surprisingly, 50% of them have failed to reproduce their own experiments. 

The reasons behind this are many: from poor analysis or experimental design, to human error or lack of complete methods’ information. The list goes on, but in many of these cases, using online software could help increase reproducibility. They are designed to be consistent, follow industry standards and facilitate automated experiments and data collection.   


Online tools are also designed to share your files and results easily with colleagues and collaborators. Aside from facilitating record-keeping and making your life easier, sharing is more important than ever. In the past years more publishers and funders are encouraging, even demanding, depositing raw datas and protocols in a repository. In this scenario, using online tools can become a huge advantage. 

Also, improving the way you share your raw data, results and protocols positively impacts the reproducibility of your experiments. A study published in Plos One5 indicates that sharing detailed research data is associated with increased citation rate. Sharing not only improves your work but also the quality and robustness of science in general. 

5 reasons to switch to online software: flexibility, reproducibility, shareable, save time, increase productivity.


Online tools help you to simplify your workflow and save time. Although in many cases you can do the same work with pen and paper, the online versions make it quicker. They are designed to free you from normally boring and time-consuming tasks and to improve one, or several, key steps of an experiment (creation, execution, data collection, data processing and calculations). 

Moreover, using a toll helps to compare results across multiple runs and, even more exciting, when you deal with large amounts of data and samples, it can help you see the results in a global way and find connections. 


And last but not least, using online tools improves productivity and efficiency. Besides saving time, using online software avoids the mistakes and typical human errors that can ruin an experiment: misscopy data, transcription errors, data loss, haphazard record storage… They also help to optimize workflow and automate processes. In summary, using online tools is a great way to  boost your productivity in the lab.

As you can see, everyone can benefit from changing to online software. From small labs to big biotech companies. There are plenty of options out there. If you are thinking of making the transition, we recommend to start small first and try different solutions to find the one that suits you and improves your workflow. 

At Bufferfish, we do our best to create chemistry software and result analysis tools to make your life easier so you can really focus on your research. 


Celebrating the uniqueness in every student

Bridging the gap between classrooms and real world 

The formulaic, rote learning approaches to classroom education are increasingly outdated in a fast-changing, technology-driven world. As technology advances at a fast clip with every passing year, the most rewarding careers are those in which the professionals can use innovative and creative approaches to what they studied from textbooks. 

Take math and science, for example. We live in a complex world where our every habit and behaviour have the potential to be quantified. We want to know how many hours we sleep, how many steps we walk every day, how our heart beats while grocery shopping, and how our body is responding to a type of music. This is the era of Big Data, analytics, pattern recognition and artificial intelligence. Classroom education can be most effective if teachers make meaningful connections between the academic lessons and the real world

Personalized pathways for learning

If education can be flexible enough to make room for every student’s strengths and learning inclinations, it is more than half the battle won. If students are equipped with the power to design their education and choose what to learn and how to learn (through informed decision making), they are likely to be more invested in making the most out of their classroom hours and beyond. 

Every student is unique. The education system must be flexible to celebrate this uniqueness and help students achieve their career goals. This is already being done in some places. For instance, Leiden University in The Netherlands offers flexible learning pathways in which students can take charge of their education to align with their personal ambitions. They will be guided by the teachers in creating a unique education pathway that complements their talents and interests.

One student may be naturally inclined towards numbers while another may be good at understanding concepts. One student may be quick at spotting errors while another may be good at words and writing. Teaching can be most effective if each student’s strengths are optimized to create a wholesome learning experience. 

Universities started offering flexible learning pathways.

A plan for the future 

Personalized learning pathways have benefits that go beyond the classroom learning experience. Take the example of Rhiannon Dunn, a ninth-grade teacher at Science Hill High School in Johnson City, Tennessee, USA, who has applied the concept of personalized learning that students can choose for themselves. Dunn started a literary circle in which students have the freedom to choose any book for their independent reading time. They also get to decide how the teacher assesses them on this learning activity. It gives a strong message to students that they have a voice in their learning journey. 

The student takes an active interest in charting a course of action for the future by linking education to the career that they most likely see themselves in. They take into account their interests, natural strengths and curiosity while aligning them with the profession of their choosing. Students are able to draft a plan for their professional life, and be proactive in the decision making as they pursue their education. 

Since students take ownership of their education, they are likely to be more interested and invested in the learning process. They become active learners from passive observers in the classroom. When a personalized learning pathway for a student includes creative teaching methods, students will ideally continue learning beyond the classroom, too. 

What happens if a student changes her/his mind after a while on the pathway? This could happen as students cannot be expected to know for sure what they want. The education pathway should be flexible enough to allow a student to explore additions or changes without feeling like she/he is at a loss or has to completely start over. Education counselling is, therefore, extremely important to ensure that the student is making a commitment, and is allowed some elbow room to tweak the learning pathway.   

Instilling the spirit of curiosity 

A creative approach to learning has to start in the classroom, where students gain the confidence that learning need not to be fixed or given. It is, rather, a lifelong process that can be playful and encourages the student’s spirit of inquiry. Curiosity and the desire to know is at the heart of meaningful education. This curiosity is then given wings by personalizing learning so that the student can move forward at her own pace and time, using the format that gives the best results. 

A unique path for every student 

We live in a world that is increasingly celebrating our uniqueness, and offering personalized solutions to our needs. Be it advertising, technology, health, beauty or fitness, personalization has seeped into every part of our lives. Why should education be any different

Charting out a unique pathway for every student is an exciting prospect in which the student, the main stakeholder of education, has the maximum say and also the maximum benefit from the process. 

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Two years of distance education: is the revolution here to stay?

The pandemic has forced schools to adapt to online training

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented revolution in education. Confinement forced classes to be adapted to online formats, a huge challenge for many professionals and educational centres. 

After nearly two years since the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s time to look back and analyse how the educational community has experienced the impact of the pandemic and the online transformation. And we ask ourselves: Is online education here to stay?

The role of technology

The use of technology in the classroom was already a tendency and a major concern in educational centres before the pandemic: In the United States 85% of district administrators reported that using digital learning resources was a high priority in 2019, and already in the 2017-2018 academic year, 21% of public schools offered at least 1 online course. The pandemic forced to speed up this tendency, with 80% of households with children learning online in Spring 2020.

Technology has allowed education to continue while the schools were closed, showing that it can provide a plan B in times of shock. The use of platforms that facilitate videoconferences, chats and tools to share documents provided a channel to deliver remote learning and keep students and teachers in contact. 

On the other side, specialized programs and applications to work on specific content helped students in a situation where they had to work completely on their own. These tools have definitively entered the classroom and will undoubtedly mark the education of the future.

MathType is a clear example of this situation: The use of the equation editor experienced a huge growth (more than 400%) during the strong lockdown months. Since then, the number of users that open documents with formulas hasn’t stopped growing, showing that the digital content that was generated during the pandemic will continue to be used.

Confinement forced classes to be adapted to online formats.

Hybrid learning

During the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 90% of European higher education institutions adapted their learning formats to online or blended models. But even now that the situation of the pandemic allows us to get back to face-to-face lessons, online training continues to be an option that can be combined with in-person attendance. This is called hybrid learning, and takes the best of each model, from closeness and face-to-face contact, to the advantages provided by educational equipment, tools and applications.

Hybrid learning has a lot of potential to be explored. For instance, it could help ill students to continue with their courses in a normal way. It could also be a solution for schools in some rural areas, where people have a long journey to school, everyday. Thanks to technology, hybrid learning is an interesting model for education, as it allows an easy adaptation to the needs of each centre, type of student, and training.

Challenges of online education

However, the online or hybrid models also pose great challenges for schools and education professionals, as well as for students and their families.

To begin with, not all homes have the necessary digital tools and a stable internet connection. 

This creates a digital divide that results in difficulties in accessing education. Moreover, these difficulties strike vulnerable educational communities harder. According to UNICEF, 3 out of 4 students who cannot be reached by the remote learning policies come from rural areas or belong to the poorest households. 

The conditions in which the students work at home are also a drawback of online education.  A third of the high education students in the EU do not often have a quiet place to study, and almost 60 % reported they do not always have a reliable internet connection. The experience of the pandemic suggests that, even in developed countries, there’s still a long way to go until the implementation of remote learning does not leave anyone behind. 

Additionally, new skills are required to master technologies. Education professionals must adapt to these new digital tools, while students must be able to acquire the skills that promote their independence, flexibility and willingness to learn and improve beyond the school years.

Adapting the contents

Another challenge is knowing how to efficiently adapt content to an online format. Giving classes by videoconference or hanging the subjects in a cloud may not be sufficient if we expect the same level of results. A significant proportion of students in the EU (47.43 %) consider that their academic performance was negatively affected when on-site classes were cancelled, a clear sign that technology didn’t completely succeed in substituting face-to-face education. 

In the digital model, contents must be adapted through applications and programs that make the subject matter more attractive and understandable. This is especially challenging in STEM subjects, where the materials (graphics, equations, lab work, etc) are more difficult to adapt to a cloud format. 

An example of a successful adaptation of traditional material to a digital format is the recent WirisQuizzes graph features, that were built during the pandemic and are now a digital support for the most visual parts of mathematics: geometry, functions and statistics.

While challenges in online learning exist, educational tools and models will evolve to overcome them. There is still a long way to go, but most would agree that the online learning revolution is indeed here to stay. The next question is: Where do we want it to take us?

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