Want to learn the trick to overcoming math anxiety?
We often hear of math anxiety. Test taking anxiety. Math test taking anxiety. As though, the child really knows and understands the material, (she knew it before the test!) but that "math anxiety" just keeps disturbing her concentration and lowering her achievement.
Not Enough Time
"Anxiety" has a cousin, who also prevents supposedly competent students from performing well. His name is "Not Enough Time." As in, "My son really did know the material, there just wasn’t enough time on the test."
Well, I am pleased to announce that "Anxiety", and "Not Enough Time," are in the vast majority of cases woes that are very simply cured.
Simply, but not necessarily easily. (That’s why many students and even their parents persist in wallowing in these fantasy diseases rather than rolling up their sleeves and engaging in the real cure.)
Discovering the Cause of Math Anxiety?
What is this Math Anxiety? I never had that, but I have had "Driving Anxiety." Not long ago I had to pick someone up at an unfamiliar location in a nearby city, a city that, according to my prejudiced view at least, is characterized by aggressive, even wild driving.
Though I worked out my route and timing days in advance, I still found myself thinking of the drive in a negative way on and off in the days preceding the trip, and at night before I went to sleep. I’d call that anxiety! But I got it over with.
Now here’s the nice part of the story. I ended up going to the same location several more times over a period of a few months. Each time, it bothered me less.
I learned the landmarks. That one turn where you can’t read the sign but it’s right after the old movie theatre with the big sign on the right. The place where two lanes turn left and you want to be in the far one so you don’t have to change lanes before your next turn. And so on. If I went now, I wouldn’t think anything of it.
I Found the Cure!
What happened? My anxiety was there, and now it’s gone. What’s the trick? What’s the magic spell? It was just plain old practice.
As I became familiar with the steps of the route, it got easier and faster and calmer. Easier and faster and calmer each time. That really and truly is all there is to it.
With practice and concentration at the given task, driving to certain location in an unfamiliar city, or adding fractions, whatever it might be, we get more competent, more confident, better, faster, calmer.
Overcoming Math Anxiety
You see, Math Anxiety, and its cousin Not Enough Time, are not independent evil spirits afflicting our poor children. They are symptoms of unfamiliarity with the material.
They are symptoms of weak math skills. And so they can be cured very simply (though not necessarily easily) by making sure the student understands the relevant techniques, and then practices them again and again and again until he can add fractions without batting an eye.
Competent student, no more math anxiety.
Still not convinced that math practice overcomes anxiety? Read how I compare the act of Learning Math to learning to ride a bike.
Practice Makes Perfect
We’re anxious when we don’t know what we’re doing. We’re calm and confident when we do. The complete solution for overcoming Math Anxiety is simply a whole lot more systematic practice than the afflicted student has been doing or perhaps wants to do.
"New" Math: One More Cause of Math Anxiety
Perhaps one more cause of math anxiety, would be math education that skips over traditional, time-tested, skills and practice-based teaching methods. Here is a video that demonstrates what can happen when math curriculums deviate from the norm:
Children who have been taught math using the methods shown in this video will probably never gain the skills-based mastery needed for success in upper level math and will suffer from severe "math anxiety" throughout their entire math careers.
Want to help your child with overcoming math anxiety? Be sure they are well-schooled in traditional, practice-based math curricula.
Parents dealing with a child already suffering from math anxiety can visit Parenting-Children-Tips to encourage and assist you with the ups and downs in the unique journey of parenting your own children."
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