Reducing Math AnxietyDate: 08/26/2005 at 23:30:30 From: Maricel Subject: How to overcome math anxiety I am a teacher in the tertiary level. I would like to know ways by which students math anxiety can be overcome? Date: 08/27/2005 at 12:02:00 From: Doctor Ian Subject: Re: How to overcome math anxiety Hi Maricel, I think the best way to reduce math anxiety is by never trying to explain something in terms of concepts that aren't already well understood by the students. Think about some topic that you know relatively little about (e.g., monetary policy), and imagine that you're attending a lecture for specialists in that field. The speaker is trying to explain some concept, but he's doing it using vocabulary that you don't really understand (even though some of it, like "interest rates", may sound somewhat familiar). Now imagine that you know you're going to be tested on what the speaker has been talking about later on. You'd probably feel pretty anxious, wouldn't you? That's how a lot of your students feel when you use terms that they recognize but don't actually, thoroughly understand. - Doctor Ian, The Math Forum http://mathforum.org/dr.math/ Date: 08/27/2005 at 17:26:45 From: Doctor Wilko Subject: Re: How to overcome math anxiety Hi Maricel, I just wanted to add some information to what Dr. Ian said. This is an excerpt from a paper I worked on a couple years back. If you read through this you may be able to pull out a couple "nuggets" of information that may be helpful to you: ...Tobias explains that math anxiety is an obsession with the idea that "everyone knows that I don't understand". "I'd better not draw attention to myself by asking questions" (Cited in Stuart, 2000). This feeling of fear can cause headaches, queasy stomach, sweaty palms, dry mouth, and eventually can even develop into math avoidance or math phobia. Math anxiety can be conquered if teachers and parents work together to understand its causes, as well as implement effective strategies to reduce its harmful effect on students. One of the first and obvious places where math anxiety can develop for a student is his or her home. A parent or guardian's influence on their child is crucial to how the child views and interprets his or her environment. A child may view math as being unimportant if his or her parents either do not like math or see it as useless. Many times parents can be heard saying, "I was never good at math" or "math was hard for me, so I don't expect my child to be able to understand it either". Parents need to encourage their children to do their best regardless of how they did in the subject. In addition to just encouraging their children, parents can become involved by working together with the teacher to make a difference for the child. The main idea stressed here is attitude. A child's attitude will be affected by his or her parent's attitude towards math. Not only are the attitudes of a parent important, but also those of a student's teacher. Teachers, probably second to parents, are students' most important influence in how they view math. Jackson and Leffingwell (1999) conducted research that reveals three categories of grade levels where math anxiety occurs: 1. Elementary level, grades 3 and 4. 2. High School level, grades 9-11. 3. College level, freshman year. Students face an increase in the level of difficulty during fourth grade. These students are learning more complex concepts, such as fractions, taking timed tests in competition with their peers, and having to memorize multiplication tables and formulas. On top of this increased pressure that students experience, their teachers may get angry when asked for help, and even point out their mistakes in front of the entire class. The next cluster of students who experience math anxiety are in high school between ninth and eleventh grades. Again, here a teacher's attitude towards math and his or her students can either make or break them. Often high school teachers become angry when asked for help and even verbalize that the students should have learned it the first time it was taught. Many high school students also attribute their math anxiety to having been forced to go to and stay at the chalkboard until they finished a problem that they did not even understand. The last cluster where math anxiety can occur is during a student's freshman year in college. Professors often lecture with little interaction with their students. Students who do ask questions may feel belittled for not having the prerequisite knowledge. Professors may even dislike or have less patience with entry level math classes. In addition to the above teacher actions, math anxiety can be induced many other ways. A teacher who emphasizes product over process encourages less participation from his or her students. Students who receive a low grade for a mistake, regardless if they understood the problem or not, may develop math anxiety. Many instructors teach math as rules and symbols in a chapter by chapter fashion. As a result, students often view math as disconnected bits of information that is unrelated to the real world. Probably one of the greatest teacher mistakes is starting a new concept before the current one has been mastered, especially since most math is built up from learning previous material. A parent or teacher's attitude toward gender can greatly influence a student of any grade level. According to Jackson and Leffingwell (1999), girls are ridiculed more often than boys, given less help than boys, and even discouraged from taking math as much as boys. However, it is a common myth that boys are better at math than girls, and it simply may be society that hinders girls from experiencing their math potential. In fact, research suggests that girls start out ahead of boys in talking, reading, and counting (Zaslavsky Cited in Fotoples, 2000). After reviewing the attitudes and actions that contribute to a student developing math anxiety, it should be more clear how to prevent this condition. Two main strategies that teachers can use to help eliminate math anxiety and build student confidence are demonstrated in their emotional and physical actions. The first area of strategies appeal more to the emotions of students and are more general to the classroom environment. These strategies are related to the idea of the importance of teachers' attitudes towards students. Teachers should only use positive talk, encourage questions, and demonstrate a sensitive character. Teachers of this character puts themselves in the shoes of their students, acknowledges their fears, and have an overall acceptance of all the students. Overall, this type of teacher has a safe classroom where students feel accepted and are encouraged to learn. The physical strategies are more specific to the teaching of math. Teachers should use manipulatives whenever possible to solidify concepts in their students' minds. Cooperative learning and peer tutoring are also highly encouraged. Students often benefit from getting an explanation from the viewpoint of a classmate. In order that students do not see math as unrelated and disconnected bits of information, teachers should constantly review past material, make connections from the math world to the real world, and master concepts before moving on. Math anxiety appears to be highest on test days. To help with this, teachers need to teach test taking strategies, as well as give the students study guides to focus them. In their book, _Mind Over Math_, Kogelman and Warren (1978) stress the importance of acknowledging anxiety and writing about it as a first step in dealing with it. For teachers, this may mean having journal writing where students express their feelings about a topic being covered or about math in general. Many teachers also have had success by writing up a plan of action in which the teacher and student sign it and together remain focused on achieving a goal. These are just a handful of suggestions that may help students become less anxious during math class. As technology continues to grow, math is becoming more demanded by industry. This demand for math is causing a surge of math anxiety for many. For teachers, the challenge remains to teach math effectively without inducing math anxiety in students. Math anxiety can be lessened and possibly eliminated if parents and teachers collaborate to understand its causes and implement proper strategies to reduce its effect. As teachers and parents demonstrate an accepting, sincere, and positive attitude, they will be able to build the confidence of their students. Bibliography Fiore, G. (1999). Math-abused students: are we prepared to teach them? Mathematics Teacher, 92 (5), 403-406. Wilson Select Plus. Online. OCLC First Search. 24 Oct. 2000. Fotoples, R.M. (2000). Overcoming math anxiety. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 36 (4), 149-151. Wilson Select Plus. Online. OCLC First Search. 24 Oct. 2000. Jackson, C.D. & Leffingwell R.J. (1999). The role of instructors in creating math anxiety in students from kindergarten through college. Mathematics Teacher, 92 (7), 583-586. Wilson Select Plus. Online. OCLC First Search. 24 Oct. 2000. Kogelman, S. & Warren, J. (1978). Mind Over Math. New York: McGraw Hill. Schwartz, A.E. (2000). Axing math anxiety. The Education Digest, 65 (5), 62-64. Wilson Select Plus. Online. OCLC First Search. 24 Oct. 2000. Steale, D.F. & Arth, A.A. (1998). Lowering anxiety in the math curriculum. The Education Digest, 63, 18-23. Wilson Select Plus. Online. OCLC First Search. 24 Oct. 2000. Stuart, V. B. (2000). Math curse or math anxiety? Teaching Children Mathematics, 6 (5), 330-335. Wilson Select Plus. Online. OCLC First Search. 24 Oct. 2000. Does this help? - Doctor Wilko, The Math Forum http://mathforum.org/dr.math/ Date: 08/29/2005 at 04:48:43 From: Maricel Subject: Thank you (How to overcome math anxiety) Thank you so much for your reply. I really want to help my students like math. |
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