Math anxiety Essay
Many students are hesitant to learn mathematics because of the implication that this subject matter is difficult. With just the thought of numbers and figures to be solved, most students feel uncomfortable and experienced physiological responses like sweating of the palms which sometimes leads to mental block (Kogelman and Warren 12). This is generally referred to as math anxiety. Math anxiety is experienced by each and every individual. Even those people who are regarded as math wizards also experience this emotional response. Such emotional response is not limited to persons termed as less fortunate for mathematical skills.
Often times, problems arise because of the presence of intense anxiety. One can not do math upon the presence of this emotional feeling. This usually interferes with the ability of the mind to concentrate, retain information and attend to details. As a result, students find it hard to understand lessons on mathematics and develop panic. They tend to give up in trying solving and are unable to comprehend the basics of mathematics. Thus, whenever there is an exam or a board work to be done, they are likely to have this sense of frustration and declined self esteem. Such bad experiences in mathematics cause a student to avoid mathematics. It is but natural for a student to have this feeling of avoidance because this would only bring back memories of bad experiences. Sad to say, mathematics is one of the things that is hard to stay away from because it is a part of everyday life. The only escape to shun this area is to either not to do them, or have someone do it (44). However, avoiding mathematics would only remind an individual of things that he can not do therefore developing a sense of inadequacy in this area of study.
Causes of Math Anxiety
Although there is no definite cause of math anxiety, researchers claim that pressure of timed tests and threats of public embarrassment are some of the sources of unproductive tension among many students. In addition, common practices inside the classroom like imposed authority by the teacher, public exposures and time deadlines also contributes to intensify the anxiety of students towards mathematics.
Studies also show that math myths and misconceptions set by the society causes an individual to be math anxious. Some of these myths includes beliefs that aptitude for math is inborn, being good in calculating means being good at math and men are far better than women in terms of mathematical thinking (Russell 1). These myths and misconceptions taken as true and applicable by most individuals lead to the discouragement of a person to study mathematics and because of this, math anxiety arises.
The belief that the aptitude for math is inborn can be regarded as the most natural thing in the world. This belief comes into picture because of the comparison of the field of mathematics to other fields like music and athletics. Some individuals are just born to be more talented in the field of music and athletics and to some extent these talents must be inborn. People tend to generalized this thought and consider that good mathematical skills must be innate. According to Russell, mathematics is indeed inborn; however, it is born in each and every individual. Mathematics is a trait shared by the entire race thus, no one should be doubtful about his own capability to do math.
To be good at calculating does not mean being good at mathematics. It is to be understood that mathematics is a science of ideas and not merely of calculation. Understanding basic concepts in math is needed than just doing exercises in calculations. Figures in mathematics are representations of the topics in this subject matter but the success in mathematics does not rely on being a wiz at figures.
Differences of men and women to do math typically has no basis. Claims regarding this gender bias belief continue to shade people’s attitude and develop a feeling of being inferior as oppose to the opposite sex. Interrelating this misconception to the first one that had been discussed, individuals regardless of there gender should bear in mind that the aptitude for mathematics is inborn in each and every individual. Uncertainty on this ability is only brought by the society’s myths and misconceptions.
The approach in learning and teaching mathematics also contributes to the development of anxiety (qtd. in Curtain-Philips 1). Most schools and institutions used the behaviorist approach in teaching which merely emphasizes learning through memorization and repetition. Mastery on the steps in solving problems in mathematics is the main feature of this approach thus, the student tends to set aside the concepts behind solving these problems. Knowing the steps in solving a problem without understanding the concepts would bring the student to a state of loss if problems given in exams or seat works are different from what he memorizes. In these circumstances, panic comes in. Other factors in the learning place which causes math anxiety is the presence of an insensitive and punitive environment (Kogelman and Warren 18). Teachers are supposed to help students to learn and love mathematics, but what usually happens inside the classroom is that they terrorize students and tend to embarrass them in front of other students.
Family members also affect an individual’s viewpoint towards mathematics. Competition and comparison on the mathematical skills among siblings are immobilizing (19). An individual develops a sense of worthlessness when being compared to other family members who are more likely to be good in mathematics and as a result, one tends to stop pursuing to learn the subject. Parents and teachers sometimes lack the reinforcement to push a student to do math and this also results to the decrease of enthusiasm of an individual to learn math. Development of math anxiety can be seen as a collective result of different factors working hand in hand with bad experiences.
Overcoming Math Anxiety
Knowing the different causes of math anxiety, researchers develop ways on how to address this problem. It was said earlier that being anxious about mathematics is experienced by everyone therefore, people should recognized this fact. Students having great anxiety towards mathematics should accept the feeling and realize that it is not unusual (Kogelman and Warren 13). When an individual begins to accept this fact, it would be easier for him to process ideas on how would he outdo anxiety. Most of the time, when an individual fails to recognize that math anxiety is a common feeling shared by everyone, the brain’s capability to process and understand ideas are suppress.
Myths and misconceptions about mathematics should be analyzed first before accepting. Oftentimes, these misconceptions and myths cause one’s enthusiasm to decline. It is not reasonable to believe in such myths and misconceptions because some of which are vague and has no basis at all. The problems on developing math anxiety in a traditional classroom condition could be solved by providing a much friendly environment to students. This is for the part of the learning institution to be done. Approach used in teaching should also be re-examined drawing more emphasis on teaching methods which include less lecture, more student directed classes and more discussion. The learning institution should also develop a strategy of teaching which will make students realize the importance and benefits of mathematics. There should be a motivating factor for the students to overcome the anxiety on this subject matter like more job options and high paying job opportunities would be obtained if students would be likely to love mathematics. The importance of mathematics in everyday living should be presented to the students in order for them to develop a positive outlook. It is a task of an educator also to be a good role model to their students. Mentioning bad experiences in mathematics to the class would not do any help.
For the part of the students, developing a positive attitude in learning math would reduce the level of anxiety. Nevertheless, educators also play a vital role developing positive attitudes, because this goes hand in hand with quality teaching. Students should also have the determination to understand math. If the lesson presented is unclear, questions and a clear illustrations or demonstrations should be asked. One should focus more on the concepts being taught rather on the steps of solving problems. Although practicing regularly especially in lessons which seem to be difficult would help decrease the level of anxiety of an individual.
Studying in group or hiring a tutor would also help a student t strengthen her confidence in doing math. Being in groups or asking help from a skilled person provide students a chance to exchange ideas, to ask questions freely, to clarify ideas in meaningful ways and to express feelings about their learning. Discussion of wrong answers can be useful in helping other people to look at the problem. Creative learning strategies in understanding mathematics would also be helpful in overcoming math anxiety. It is also helpful for students to take down notes on lessons presented and reviewing these lessons after class. By doing this, a student would be able to recognize what ideas are not clear.
Family encouragement would also prevent the development of a student’s anxiety towards mathematics. Parents, more often than not, influence their children in career choices. If a child would be likely to see his parents’ perseverance and dedication to the path of career that they take, then he would be likely to pursue more challenging courses and careers and most of these challenging courses are math-inclined.
A collective support from the parents, teachers and the student would aid in overcoming mathematics anxiety. There should be a good interaction within the three persons involve in order to succeed in solving the problem regarding math anxiety.
Math anxiety is an emotional response which causes an individual’s cognitive processing to be disrupted. Most students suffer from math anxiety because of the interrelation of different factors. The classroom environment, teachers, myths and misconceptions learned from the society, parents as well as other family members has a significant role in the development as well as prevention of math anxiety.
Students who refuse to overcome his attitude towards anxiety tend to acquire a job with less compensation. A person’s ability to explore and go into deeper and challenging careers is suppressed by the fear of math. In order to avoid this, one should develop a scheme or approach towards his learning studies in mathematics. A little push from family members as well as educators would be of great help in overcoming math anxiety.
As early as possible, math anxiety should be somehow reduce in the mindset of students. If a student experienced a negative implication about mathematics, he would be more likely to avoid taking courses having numerous math subjects. If this happens, he’s capability of finding a high wage job and opportunity in expanding his career would be loss thus, he would be likely to end up with lower math competence and achievement.
Most students become discourage because of the mistakes that they committed in solving math problems. These mistakes should somehow be viewed as an approach to further develop one’s skill in mathematics. After all, it is by committing mistakes that we learn. Students should not view this negatively but instead consider this as a positive experience to pursue doing mathematics.
Understanding this emotional response alone is not enough, there must be a thorough grasps of the many facets of relations between feelings and effort to do math. people should always keep in mind that math anxiety is a learned emotional response, therefore there is always be ways to manage and if possible shun this feeling.
Kogelman, Stanley and Joseph Warren. Mind Over Math. New York, N.Y. McGraw-Hill Professional, 1979.
Russell, Deb. Math Anxiety. 1 May 2008.<http://math.about.com/od/reference/a/anxiety.htm>.
Scarpello, Gary. “Helping Students Get Past Math Anxiety”. Techniques: Connecting Education & Careers 82 (2007): 34-35.