Overcoming Math Anxiety Help (page 2)
Overcoming Math Anxiety
Now that we have explained the nature of math anxiety and some of the possible causes of it, let us move to the next part of this program: How You Can Overcome Math Anxiety. The plan for overcoming math anxiety consists of two parts. First , you need to develop a positive attitude towards mathematics; second , you need to learn some calming and relaxation skills to use in the classroom, when you are doing your homework, and especially when you are taking a math test.
Developing a Positive Attitude
To be successful in mathematics, you need to develop a positive attitude towards the subject. Now you may ask, "How can I develop a positive attitude for something I hate?"
Here's the answer.
First, it is important to believe in yourself . That is, believe that you have the ability to succeed in mathematics. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale wrote a book entitled You Can If You Think You Can . In it he states, "Remember that self-trust is the first secret of success. So trust yourself." This means that in order to succeed, you must believe absolutely that you can.
"Well," you say, "how can I start believing in myself?"
This is possible by using affirmations and visualizations.
An affirmation is a positive statement that we make about ourselves. Remember the children's story entitled The Little Engine That Could ? In the story, the little engine keeps saying, "I think I can, I think I can" when it was trying to pull the cars up the mountain. Although this is a children's story, it illustrates the use of affirmations. Many athletes use affirmations to enhance their performance. You can, too. Here are a few affirmations you can use for mathematics:
- "I believe I can succeed in mathematics."
- "Each day I am learning more and more."
- "I will succeed in this course."
- "There is nothing that can stop me from learning mathematics."
In addition, you may like to write some of your own. I think you can see what I mean. Here are some suggestions for writing affirmations:
- State affirmations in the positive rather than the negative. For example, don't say, "I will not fail this course." Instead, affirm, "I will pass this course."
- Keep affirmations as short as possible.
- When possible, use your name in the affirmation. Say, "I (your name) will pass this course."
- Be sure to write down your affirmations and read them every morning when you awake and every evening before going to sleep.
Affirmations can also be used before entering math class, before doing your homework, and before the exam. You can use affirmations to relax when your symptoms of math anxiety start to occur. This will be explained later.
Another technique that you can use to develop a positive attitude and help you in believing in yourself is to use visualizations . When you visualize, you create a mental picture of yourself succeeding in your endeavor. Whenever you visualize, try to use as many of your senses as you can – sight, hearing, feeling, smelling, and touch. For example, you may want to visualize yourself getting an A on the next math test. Paint a picture of a scene like this:
Visualize yourself sitting in the classroom while your instructor is passing back the test paper. As he or she gives you your test paper, feel the paper in your hand and see the big red A on top of it. Your friend next to you says, "Way to go!" I don't know how to include your sense of smell in this picture, but maybe you can think of a way.
The best time to visualize is after relaxing yourself and when it is quiet. Of course, you can use visualization any time when it is convenient.
A fourth way to develop a positive attitude is to give yourself a pep talk every once in a while. Pep talks are especially helpful when you are trying to learn different topics, when you are ready to give up, or when you have a mental block.
How we talk to ourselves is very important in what we believe about ourselves. Shad Helmstetter wrote an entire book on what people say to themselves. It is entitled The Self-Talk Solution . In it he states, "Because 75% or more of our early programming was of the negative kind, we automatically followed suit with self-programming of the same negative kind." As you can see, negative self-talk will lead to a negative attitude.
Conversely, positive self-talk will help you develop a positive self-image. This will help you not only in mathematics but also in all aspects of your life.
Another suggestion to help you to be positive about mathematics is to be realistic . You should not expect to have perfect test papers every time you take a test. Everybody makes mistakes. If you made a careless mistake, forget it. If you made an error on a process, make sure that you learn the correct procedure before the next test. Also, don't expect to make an A on every exam: sometimes a C is the best that you can accomplish. In mathematics, some topics are more difficult than others, so if you get a C or even a lower grade on one test, resolve to study harder for the next test so that you can bring up your average.
Finally, it is important to develop enthusiasm for learning . Learning is to your mind what exercise is to your body. The more you learn, the more intelligent you will be. Don't look at learning as something to dread. When you learn something new and different, you are improving yourself and exercising your mind. Learning can be fun and enjoyable, but it requires effort on your part.
Developing a positive attitude about mathematics alone will not enable you to pass the course. Achieving success requires hard work by studying, being persistent, and being patient with yourself. Remember the old saying, "Rome wasn't built in a day."
Learning Calming and Relaxation Skills
The second part of this program is designed to show you some techniques for stress management. These techniques will help you to relax and overcome some of the physical and mental symptoms (nervousness, upset stomach, etc.) of math anxiety. The first technique is called deep breathing . Here you sit comfortably in a chair with your back straight, feet on the floor, and hands on your knees. Take a deep, slow breath in through your nose and draw it down into your stomach. Feel your stomach expand. Then exhale through your mouth. Take several deep breaths. Note: If you become dizzy, stop immediately.
Another technique that can be used to calm yourself is to use a relaxation word . Sit comfortably, clear your mind, and breathe normally. Concentrate on your breathing, and each time you exhale, say a word such as "relax," "peace," "one," or "calm." Select a word that is pleasing and calming to you.
You can also use a technique called thought stopping . Any time you start thinking anxious thoughts about mathematics, say to yourself, "STOP," and then try to think of something else. A related technique is called thought switching . Here you make up your mind to switch your thoughts to something pleasant instead of thinking anxious thoughts about mathematics.
In the preceding section, I explained the techniques of visualization and affirmations . You can also use visualizations and affirmations to help you reduce your anxiety. Whenever you become anxious about mathematics, visualize yourself as being calm and collected. If you cannot do this, then visualize a quiet, peaceful scene such as a beautiful, calm lake in the mountains. You can also repeat affirmations such as "I am calm."
The last technique that you can use to relax is called grounding . In order to ground yourself, sit comfortably in a chair with your back straight, feet on the floor, and hands on your legs or on the side of the chair. Take several deep breaths and tell yourself to relax. Next, think of each part of your body being grounded. In other words, say to yourself, "I feel my feet grounded to the floor." Then think of your feet touching the floor until you can feel them touching. Then proceed to your ankles, legs, etc., until you reach the top of your head. You can take a deep breath between grounding the various parts of the body, and you can even tell yourself to relax.
In order to learn these techniques, you must practice them over and over until they begin to work.
However, for some people, none of these techniques will work. What then? If you cannot stop your anxious thoughts, then there is only one thing left to do. It is what I call the brute force technique . That is to realize that you must attend class, do the homework, study, and take the exams. So force yourself mentally and physically to do what is necessary to succeed. After brute forcing several times, you will see that it will take less effort each time, and soon your anxiety will lessen.
In summary, confront your anxiety head on. Develop a positive attitude and use stress reduction techniques when needed.
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