Research Paper: How Do We Combat Math Anxiety?

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Math Anxiety

How to Combat Math Anxiety

Causes for Anxiety

How to Begin to Help

What Schools Can Do

What Parents Can Do

Albert Einstein once stated, "Do not worry about your difficulties in mathematics; I assure you mine are greater."

Yet no matter how great this man's difficulties were, for those suffering from math anxiety, any math problem is the hardest in the universe. This type of anxiety is provoked when a person is asked to deal with a mathematical problem or equation. The formal definition of math anxiety is "the panic, helplessness, paralysis, and mental disorganization that arises among some people when they are required to solve a mathematical problem."

According to this same source, math anxiety is not just a minor problem; in fact, many people suffer from this serious but treatable problem, especially in the community college setting. This paper will discuss the problem further, in order to get at the root of what it means to have math anxiety, but will also offer explanations and advice as to how to combat this problem and function without any difficulties when required to undertake a mathematical question.

Introduction

As stated in the preceding paragraph, math anxiety is not a trivial concern. The fact that an increasing number of students suffer from this type of fear is worrisome, and prompts questions as to whether the school system is treating the subject in a fair and fun way. Math is an undeniable aspect of daily life, and those who suffer from anxiety may freeze up at any point, even when dealt with simple numbers or equations. The fact that math is ever-present, and these problems arise from the simplest mathematical task can thus lead to such an individual being unable to function in society.

Causes for Anxiety

For the above-mentioned reasons, it is important to see where this anxiety comes from, for it is only in this way that one can truly see how to solve it, or at least begin to curb its effects. So far, research has confirmed that this type of anxiety rises when students are faced with various kinds of pressure. For instance, this can be pressure to finish and score well on a test. The pressure can come from the school staff, the teacher, the administrators or, more often than not, the parents. The other type of result from this pressure, if a person does not perform well, is also public embarrassment, which can also be a contributing factor towards the development of math anxiety. According to studies,

"Three practices that are a regular part of the traditional mathematics classroom and cause great anxiety in many students are imposed authority, public exposure and time deadlines. Although these are a regular part of the traditional mathematics classroom cause great deal of anxiety. Therefore, teaching methods must be re-examined. Consequently, there should be more emphasis on teaching methods which include less lecture, more student directed classes and more discussion."

The causes and results, as well as some of the remedies that can be enacted to combat and reduce math anxiety are only suggestions, however, and those causes that include pressure, which can often come from various sources, are harder to combat.

How to Begin to Help

However, one way in which students can be helped, especially with regards to this matter, is by teachers, who must work to make math fun. Unfortunately, this is not always easy, which must be understood. Though teachers often try their best, especially with regards to difficult mathematical concepts, to make the subject fun, it is often impossible. Yet schools also have very arduous and challenging programs, which can include Advanced Placement classes. These classes pit students against each other, and also elevate those students who are either more inclined towards math, thereby leaving others frustrated and feeling inferior.

According to further studies also, it was shown that despite such pressures, students can still learn and math can still be made fun. First, students must be encouraged to be active rather than passive learners. With this subject, it is often difficult to have all students in a classroom participate, but often, games can be introduced, as well as various forms of learning, in order to address the different ways in which students learn, such as visual/spatial, logical, musical, body/kinaesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal and verbal/linguistic.

These different styles are often left unaddressed by teachers who aim to teach as much as possible in a short time, in order to prepare students for tests, etc.

What Schools Can Do

Unfortunately, schools are businesses. Often times, state tests and the grades received thereon are more important than the well-being and future of a student. With all the pressures added from such issues, it is no doubt the students that feel them, and increased pressures mean increased stress, as well as lower confidence, especially in those students who do not score as highly on such tests or do not perform as well.

Some practical advice comes from a study that emphasizes one of the concepts presented above; namely, that students enjoy learning in different ways. This study states,

"Students enjoy experimenting. To learn mathematics, students must be engaged in exploring, conjecturing, and thinking rather than, engaged only in rote learning of rules and procedures. Students' prior negative experiences in math class and at home when learning math are often transferred and cause a lack of understanding of mathematics."

According to the same source, many adults are "blocked from professional and personal opportunities because they fear or perform poorly in mathematics; for many, these negative experiences remain throughout their adult lives."

From all the above-seen studies, it is clear that math is associate with pain, or frustration, and this is not the case only in younger individuals; indeed, math anxiety can be felt throughout adulthood. Such instances lead to unpaid debts, bills, or unbalanced checkbooks. Often times, the government can also be involved, especially in cases where the IRS and its policies comes into question.

What Parents Can Do

Two other ways through which math anxiety can be remedied, or curbed, are found in math humor and math discussion cooperative groups. Math humor can be easily introduced to younger children, most of whom enjoy cartoons. In fact, some television programs have already done so; however, not enough math is found in such programs, and networks are encouraged by many to do more to include mathematical concepts and skills as part of children's shows.

Cooperative groups, another solution to the math anxiety problem, can "provide students a chance to exchange ideas, to ask questions freely, to explain to one another, to clarify ideas in meaningful ways and to express feelings about their learning. These skills acquired at an early age will be greatly beneficial throughout their adult working life."

It is thus important to recognize that math anxiety does not have to be permanent, and there are many ways in which to prevent and address this problem.

In order to truly help those with this problem, one must recognize, according to some studies, eight ways in which math anxiety can be helped and curbed. These are, as follows:

1. Understand what math anxiety involves.

2. Understand what math anxiety is not.

3. Prevent math anxiety when possible.

4. Display positive feelings about math, especially with younger children.

5. Ensure that other people display positive feelings as well.

6. Do things that can help a child, especially with regards to strategies that can be utilized to reduce anxiety.

7. Know when to get help for this serious disorder.

8. Aim to reduce stress and pressure inside the home.

Conclusions

There are, of course, many other ways through which to combat math anxiety, but a first step has been to understand where math anxiety comes from, how it can be… [END OF PREVIEW]

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