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What is Math Anxiety?

We all through our academic life might have been stressed out during tests or exams or interviews. Sweating palms, inability to focus or mind-blanking are some of the signs we all might have gone through in our lives. When this problem persists, and we become submissive about it, it becomes a part of us and we develop a phobia.

Math phobia(mathemaphobia)

Is basically a feeling of anxiety in individuals about their Math skills. These people start running away from Math and, in many cases, this can be linked to their ‘fear of failure’. More than being a question about their capabilities, it’s the mental barrier which impacts their performance and learnability.

Math is Omnipresent

the entire universe is based on principles of mathematics. It’s everywhere and we all have basic Math intelligence. However, it’s the individual’s circumstances which result in to their fear towards Math.

Let us try to understand how Math anxiety can affect the students:

Math fear leads to Math avoidance and thus hinders students’ progress. When students are compared with their peers, their confidence gets further daunted. If this problem persists, it may result into passive behavior in the child – ‘I can’t do it…’ In some extreme cases, the students just accept it as permanent and incurable.

STEP ONE: To Identify the problem

In our day to day interaction we come across these statements quite often - ‘I am not good in Math’ or ‘I don’t like Math’. We also deal with students who are reluctant to solve even simple mental calculations. While others get stressed out when asked to solve questions within limited time. They suffer from higher anxiety symptoms during tests or exams which may in extreme cases lead to nervous breakdown. More often we attribute this to lack of preparation or will.
But in many students, these are the symptoms of Math phobia.

STEP TWO: Understand what could possibly be causing Math anxiety

Like most of the fears, Math anxiety is triggered by individual situations. Not every individual has same ability. Constant comparison and peer pressure, at school and at home, can negatively impact students’ confidence levels. Typecasting some students as ‘Weak in Math’ results into passive attitude in them towards that subject. They avoid Math and with lesser practice their ability further suffers. Time and result pressure related to tests and exams surges their Math anxiety.

STEP THREE: Tackle Math phobia

It's not that I am so smart; it's just that I stay with problems longer - Albert Einstein

The only way to solve a problem is to confront it. Any phobia can only be tackled through efforts from individual and support from teachers and family. It’s important to be sensitive to the fact that every child has different ability and the focus should be to nurture that inherent ability. Parents should help create a ‘growth mindset’ in their child by placing a higher emphasis on effort.
With less of an emphasis on right or wrong and more of an emphasis on process, teachers can help alleviate students' anxiety about math. Consistent and individualized training is extremely effective. Have these students practice problems until mastery is achieved. Appreciate every single achievement.
Make Math fun, relate it to the topic of interest of the student and take small attainable steps. This could be a time taking journey but every single moment of it will be worth it.

It is not the mountain that we conquer but ourselves – Edmund Hillary

About Author


TUHINA is an M Tech - Computer Technology (IIT Delhi) and Project Management Professional(PMP).
After working for Global Leaders in IT for above 17 years, her passion for kids’ education inspired her to open a KUMON center in Green Glen Layout, Bellandur. Being a parent of two school going kids and instructing kids at her center gives her a tremendous opportunity to work with kids of different ages and abilities. Strong believer in Kumon’s philosophy that EVERY CHILD CAN SHINE.

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