Q&A #19158

Math Anxiety

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From: Ralph (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: Dec 26, 2007 at 13:49:06
Subject: Re: Math Anxiety

Hi Steven,

Thank you for writing to T2T.  Math anxiety is a very real and serious
issue for many mathematics learners. Over the years I have found that a
substantial number of my teacher candidates (I teach K-6 math methods) come
to me with varying degrees of math anxiety. Although I know of no "formal"
diagnostic instrument for determining math anxiety, there are certainly
many tell-tale signs, e.g. students whose mind "goes blank" when confronted
with a math problem, students who believe they have "never been able to do
math", even students who demonstrate physical symptoms (sweaty palms,
shortness of breath, inability to focus) when "doing math." In these
extreme cases, it would certainly qualify as a "learning disability",
although it might not make a "list" of "recognized" disabilities.

I do spend as much (if not more) of my class time with my students working
on convincing them that:

a) math DOES make sense
b) they CAN do math
c) math can even be fun! (radical, I know :)

Probably the greatest compliments I have received from students on teacher
evaluations are the comments that they began my course "dreading the thought
of having to teach math", and ended it feeling confident that they could!

It's definitely worth your while to work on your students' attitudes
towards math as much as on developing their content knowledge.  Good luck.

 -Ralph, for the T2T service

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