What is Math Anxiety?

How much confidence do you have in your math skills and abilities? Do you feel helpless and intimidated when asked to calculate numbers in your head? For example, when friends appoint you to split the check and add the tip after a meal do you panic? 


If you answered, “Yes,” you’re not alone. Many adults struggle with math-related skills but does their lack of math proficiency bother them? Math illiteracy is accepted and practically expected in our society. You don’t agree? Imagine again you’re dining with friends, and one of your friends says, “Can you tell me what’s on the menu, I’m illiterate.” What would you think? How would you feel? Would you respond, ” I can’t read either, no one can read in my family; it’s genetic”! But, what if your friend said, ” I can’t do the math, what’s 20% of $27.50″? An acceptable, and sad to say, a typical response might be, “I know, I never understood percent’s, I hated math”!


The negative view of math held by many Americans has muddied its character. We’ve come to believe that math is complicated, confusing and only “certain types of people” can excel in the subject. We’ve even belittled this population by labeling them, “Nerds” and “Geeks”. Ostracized by peers or worse, victims of bullying in school, students who excel in math are treated by peers and teachers as, “not quite like the rest of us”.  

 Education World: Get Real: Math in Everyday Life


http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr148.shtmlHow many times have your students asked “When are we ever going to use this in real life?” You’ll find the answer here!  
Through the years, and probably through the centuries, teachers have struggled to make math meaningful by providing students with problems and examples demonstrating its applications in everyday life. Now, however, technology makes it possible for students to experience the value of math in daily life, instead of just reading about it. This week, Education World tells you about eight great math sites (plus a few bonus sites) that demonstrate relevance while teaching relevant skills. h/t educationworld.com

Everyday Math

You might believe that most math skills aren’t applicable to everyday life. But research would disagree. 

 In the research report, Chance Favors the Prepared Mind, Dr, Gary Phillips and his research team found that 58% of American adults don’t have the knowledge to determine a tip for their waiter when they eat out. Also, 71 % can’t calculate miles per gallon, and 78% can’t work out the interest paid on a loan. Many students and adults feel they’re not cut out for solving problems and dread the thought of taking a math class. My college roommate’s fear of math was so intense she changed her career track. She loved psychology and children. She dreamed of becoming a child psychologist. But, the psychology program required a “B” average in all psychology classes, including statistics. Her doubts and anxiety about passing statistics stopped her from pursuing her dream. 


Math Anxiety And Performance

Math Anxiety is related to Stage Fright, performance anxiety. Stage fright is the intense, at times paralyzing fear of appearing ridiculous and idiotic. It’s a form of social phobia called a “discrete” social phobia because it happens in a particular situation, performing on stage. Similarly, If you have a fear of math, your main concern is giving an incorrect response, it’s the fear of humiliation; You feel that you’re not capable of learning math. While the symptoms of  stage fright and math anxiety are similar; nervous, panicky, going blank and feeling helpless there’s an essential difference between the two. A strong foundation in math serves as an entry to almost all forms of higher education, and professional careers. 


Math Anxiety: The Misconceptions And The Causes

Most of us think we fear math because we’re bad with numbers. It’s true that if you fear math, you’ll  avoid math-related classes, which decreases your math proficiency. However, even people who excel in math suffer from math anxiety. Researchers examining the consequences of math anxiety on engineering students found a significant decline in the students performance scores with increasing math anxiety. 

” No one in my family is good at math; it’s genetic.”

stage fright

We’re all born with two fears, the fear of falling, and the fear of loud noises; All other types of fears are learned from external influences, home, school and peers. Math anxiety is linked to a negative math experience from your past. Parents may unintentionally contribute to a child’s anxiety about math. For example, If your child is frustrated or upset because of difficult math assignment, you want to comfort them Your response may be, “Don’t worry. I never got algebra, and you’ll never really need it”. You may offer a genetic pre-disposition for your child’s math difficulties, by suggesting that “no one in our family ever did well in math.”Perhaps you were punished by a teacher for failing to master a mathematical concept or felt embarrassed in front peers when giving a wrong answer in class. Timed tests and the risk of public embarrassment are two additional contributing factors of math anxiety. Since the outcome of tests usually affects a student’s overall math grade, the negative results of math anxiety reinforce their feeling of inadequacy, thus creating a cycle of anxiety and failure.

Recognizing the tremendous influences our behavior, words and actions have on others are the first steps in managing the anxiety over our math skills. Whether in the home or classroom the fears, anxieties and perceived limitations that we’ve placed on ourselves, shouldn’t be placed on anyone else.

Have a banner day!



Related Links:

Secrets of Mental Math: The Mathemagician’s Guide to Lightning Calculation and Amazing Math Tricks

A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra)

All the Math You’ll Ever Need: A Self-Teaching Guide