The Nature and Causes of Math Anxiety Help (page 2)

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By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Sep 26, 2011

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.

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