Math Anxiety What is it? Math anxiety has been defined as a feeling of tension and apprehension that arises when someone is faced with manipulating numbers and solving mathematical problems. It is not just associated with academic settings. It can show its ugly head in many ordinary life situations. In academic settings, though, math anxiety can cause students to perform poorly on math tests, homework, and just in class generally. Very often, a student’s poor performance in a mathematics class is not just the result of a lack of knowledge. It can be tied to math anxiety as well. Someone with math anxiety is not mentally deficient. But, it can cause a student to lose focus and to lose confidence in mathematical situations, thus impacting future success in mathematical requirements.
What causes it? Math is linear in nature. In most classes it is possible to skip one chapter and still understand the other material covered. Not so with mathematics. In this discipline a student must learn and understand a process before moving on to the next one. In other words, what you learn in Chapter One is the foundation of what will be taught in Chapter Two. Math is like a language. It has many symbols that appear foreign until you really understand what each means. You can’t expect to take Spanish, for example, one week and be fluent in it the next week. It is the same in mathematics. Practice makes perfect. Doing one or two homework problems is simply not enough practice to fully grasp the concepts covered in the chapter. Do all the problems assigned. Try doing a few of the ones not assigned, as well. You can be “fluent” in math if you work at it. Don’t expect your college math classes to mirror those you had in high school. In a secondary setting, you went to math class every day and were saturated with the materials covered that semester. In college, however, you are expected to learn the same amount of material but in a shorter amount of time with less contact, often, with your instructor. What you had a year to learn in high school will now be covered in about 14 -16 weeks, and you are expected to fully understand it before exiting the class. Remember, math requires a different mindset. In other classes you may just need to listen, take notes, and then learn the material without really applying what you learned. In math, you will be taking what you have learned and using it to solve equations or a set of problems. Don’t despair! You can do mathematics. In fact, you probably use more math daily than you realize. Balanced a checkbook lately? Doubled a recipe? If math begins to get you down, come to the Learning Assistance Center and let the tutors get you back on track. You can succeed in your math classes! How do I know that I have Math Anxiety? Ask yourself these questions:
If you answered “yes” to several of them, then you probably do suffer from Math Anxiety. Strategies for reducing math anxiety:
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