The Nature and Causes of Math Anxiety Help (page 2)
The Nature and Causes of Math Anxiety
Many students suffer from what is called "math anxiety." Math anxiety is very real, and it can hinder your progress in learning mathematics. Some of the physical symptoms of math anxiety include:
- pounding heart;
- rapid breathing;
- upset stomach; and
In addition to the physical symptoms, people may experience any or all of the following mental symptoms:
- a feeling of panic or fear;
- cloudy or fuzzy thinking;
- lack of concentration;
- a mental block in thinking; and
- feelings of helplessness, guilt, shame, inferiority, or stupidity.
If you have any of these physical or mental symptoms when you are in a mathematics classroom, during a mathematics test, or when you are doing your mathematics homework, then you suffer some degree of math anxiety.
Naturally, a little fear or uneasiness accompanies all of us when we take exams, but if these symptoms are severe enough to keep you from doing your best, it is time to do something about your math anxiety.
In order to decrease your anxiety, it is helpful to determine why you have math anxiety. After all, no student, as far as we know, is born with math anxiety. Let's look at some possible causes of math anxiety, and while you are reading them, think about some reasons that might have caused you to develop math anxiety.
Reason 1: Poor Math Teachers
Throughout elementary school, middle school, and even in high school, you have had many mathematics teachers. Some were good, and some were not. Sometimes teachers are forced to teach math when they are not trained for it or when they dislike the subject themselves, or even when they do not under stand it. Naturally, in these situations, teachers cannot do a good job. Think about your teachers. Were they good or were they not?
Reason 2: Traumatic Experiences
Many students can recall an incident in their education involving mathematics where they had a traumatic experience. Were you ever called to the blackboard to do a math problem in front of the whole classroom and were unable to do it? Did your teacher belittle you for your inability in mathematics? Were you ever punished for not doing your mathematics homework?
Sometimes teachers, parents, or tutors can make you feel stupid when you ask questions. One such traumatic experience in a person's life can cause that person to fear or hate mathematics for the rest of his or her life.
One student recalled that when he was studying fractions in third grade, the teacher picked him up by his ankles and turned him upside down to illustrate the concept of inverting fractions!
Can you recall a traumatic event that happened to you that was related to mathematics?
Reason 3: Prolonged Absence From School
Students who miss a lot of school usually fall behind in mathematics. Many times, they fall so far behind they cannot catch up and end up failing the course. This is because mathematics is a cumulative subject. What you learn today you will use tomorrow. If you fail to learn a topic because you were absent, when the time comes to use the material to learn something new, you will be unable to do so. It's like trying to build a second storey on a building with a weak or inadequate first storey. It cannot be done. For example, if you look at long division, it involves multiplication and subtraction. So if you can't multiply or subtract, you will not be able to do long division. All mathematics is like this!
Think about a time when you were absent from school. Were you lost in math class when you came back?
Reason 4: Poor Self-Image
Occasionally, students with a poor self-image have difficulty with mathematics. This poor self-image could have been acquired when students were told something like this:
- "Men can do math better than women."
- "Math requires logic, and you're not very logical."
- "You should be able to do math in your head."
- "Boy, that's a stupid question."
These comments can be made by parents, teachers, spouses, and even friends. They can make a person feel very inadequate when doing mathematics.
I have heard that it takes ten positive comments to overcome one negative comment.
Have you ever been made to feel stupid by someone's negative comment?
Reason 5: Emphasis on the Correct Answer
Mathematics involves solving problems, and solving problems involves getting the correct answers. When doing mathematics, it is very easy to make a simple mistake. This, in turn, will lead to the wrong answer. Even when you use a calculator, it is very easy to press the wrong key and get an incorrect answer.
Furthermore, when students are under pressure in a testing situation, they become nervous and tend to make more mistakes than they would on their homework exercises. When this occurs, students may feel that it is impossible to learn mathematics. This can cause a great deal of anxiety.
Have you ever failed a test, even when you knew how to do the problems but made simple mistakes?
Reason 6: Placement in the Wrong Course
In college, it is easy to sign up for the wrong mathematics course – i.e., for a course in which you do not have enough math skills to succeed. Therefore, it is necessary to be sure that you are properly prepared for the course that you are going to take.
Most mathematics courses, except the introductory ones, have prerequisites . For example, in order to succeed in algebra, you need to have an understanding of arithmetic. Success in trigonometry requires knowledge of algebra and geometry.
Before signing up for a mathematics course, check the college catalog to see if the course has a prerequisite. If so, make sure that you have successfully completed it. Do not skip courses . If you do, you will probably fail the course.
It would be like trying to take French III without taking French I and French II.
If you are enrolled in a mathematics course now, have you completed the prerequisite courses? If you are planning to take a mathematics course, did you check the college catalog to see if you have completed the prerequisite courses?
Reason 7: The Nature of Mathematics
Mathematics is unlike any other course in that it requires more skills than just memorization. Mathematics requires you to use analytical reasoning skills, problem solving skills, and critical thinking skills. It is also abstract in nature since it uses symbols. In other words, you have to do much more than just memorize a bunch of rules and formulas to be successful in mathematics.
Many students view mathematics with the attitude of, "Tell me what I have to memorize in order to pass the test." If this is the way you think about mathematics, you are on the road to failure. It is time to change your way of thinking about mathematics. From now on, realize that you have to do far more than just memorize.
How do you view mathematics?
Of course, there are many other factors that can cause math anxiety and lead to poor performance in mathematics. Each person has his or her own reasons for math anxiety. Perhaps you would like to add your own personal reasons for your math anxiety.