Math Anxiety – Let it go

Do we need math? Credit: Flickr (opptop)

Do we really need Math in our lives?

Yeah! I don’t care how long it will take the ball to the peak either. So do we really need math in our real life? The answer is an absolute yes! Though most of you may think the same way as the boy in the picture that you have enough math knowledge to live a good life: you know how to count, divide and make change correctly. But this is not the whole story.

As the underlying foundation of all science and technology, mathematics plays such a significant role in human society. Learning mathematics is an effective way to train our brain with logical reasoning and divergent thinking. Moreover, individuals with excellent mathematical ability can have great advantages in the competitive working environment and also be able to make more contributions to the society. Unfortunately, many individuals are getting nervous and scared when it comes to the word ‘Math’. About 1/5 to 1/4 of people around the world suffer from ‘Math Anxiety’.

What is ‘Math Anxiety’?

Math anxiety has been defined as ‘feelings of tension and anxiety that interfere with the manipulation of numbers and the solving of mathematical problems in a wide variety of ordinary life and academic situations (Reyes,1984, pp. 558-581)‘. As indicated by the definition, math-anxious individuals may have a strong tendency to avoid doing math which makes the math anxiety issue an impediment to their academic achievements and future career paths. So what causes a person being afraid of doing math? It dates back to our old school days.

‘Girls are good at reading and boys are good at math’, ‘Math classes are boring’, ‘I couldn’t understand math concepts’ and so on…These expressions must sound familiar to you. Children aren’t born with math problems and they started to become math-anxious after they went to school. I am not trying to claim the responsibility of the math anxiety problem, however, math teachers may need to think about ways that can make more students engage into math.

What can teachers do to prevent students from ‘Math Anxiety’?

Firstly, every student is capable of learning math well regardless of student’s gender. Stop holding gender-biased belief that girls are not capable of math. Teachers should banish their gender-biased belief and encourage their female students to actively participate in math learning and endorse the belief that every student is capable of learning math well.

Secondly, teachers have the responsibility to adjust their teaching methods and styles to help students better understand math concepts. Teachers should consider various ways to explain the abstract math concepts like using some practical examples to help students understand the logic behind and offer students sufficient supports to help them build confidence in math learning. For example, divergent ways to teach a new concept can be through play acting, cooperative groups, visual aids, hands on activities and technology.

Last but not the least, give students sufficient time to understand and think. As a broad category of knowledge, learning math requires logic and imagination, association and analogy, convergent and divergent thinking. Like a spiral, the advanced mathematics knowledge always builds upon the basic knowledge. Without a firm foundation, the advanced knowledge is difficult to master. And always keep in mind: every building process takes time.

To learn more about Math Anxiety:

5 Responses to “Math Anxiety – Let it go”

  1. Nicholas Kurniawan says:

    I’ve always found maths to be easy throughout high school and was very taken by surprise entering university. Taking Accelerated Mathematics in my first year definitely makes me suffer from maths anxiety but now i see it as very interesting despite not doing great at it.

  2. Emma Fazzino says:

    I agree, teaching of maths should focus more on creative thinking and problem solving and less on rigorous solving of equations because that’s where the fun is! If you’re interested in maths teaching, check out maths pathway:

    (Ps. Would love to connect with you on linkedin! )

  3. Jun says:

    Mathematics, as an intellectual games,is very effective to stretch brain for children. In the early stage of learning mathematics, it is most important to develop the children’s interest in playing games and the confidence to challenge difficulties. If this is done well, there will be no mathematics anxiety.

  4. May says:

    After reading this article I want to learn math again!😄 Just like what you said, math is important to our life and gender is irrelevant to how well man or woman will learn math!

  5. Emma Arrigo says:

    Loved the article, maths anxiety is real, I don’t understand this perversion towards maths. Favourite part was the last point, maths is such a beautiful area of study but to fully appreciate it you need the basic building blocks. The maths taught at school are like training drills in sport, preparing you for the big game where you get to really flex your mathematical muscles but you must first build up your knowledge.