Overcoming Math Anxiety

Having taught high school mathematics for 29 years, I have seen many good students struggle with their math courses.  In working with these students to help them achieve more success,  I discovered that overcoming math anxiety is sometimes all that is needed to set a struggling student on the path to mathematical understanding.   

Math anxiety can exist for any number of reasons.  It could be as simple as one bad experience in an early math course or a personality conflict with a teacher.  Whatever the reason, math anxiety can keep a student from believing that they can be successful in math.  And that is a tough obstacle to overcome.

The good news is that it often just takes one positive experience, one little taste of success, for a student to rid themselves of math anxiety.  Once that is accomplished, the student usually revels in the newfound understanding and finds that they can actually enjoy mathematics. 

Another reason students have more difficulty in mathematics courses is that tend to approach their study of mathematics in the same way that they approach their study of other courses.  They haven't learned how to really study mathematics. 

Below are some suggestions for how to approach your study of mathematics and for overcoming math anxiety:       

Mathematics courses are so much about understanding and analysis, not merely reading, memorizing facts, and summarizing.  Although there is a place for memorization in the learning of mathematics, there has to be so much more.  And this is sometimes hard for the high school student to comprehend.  Reading a math textbook is different than reading a history or science text.  It should be done with pencil and notebook close at hand for making notes and working on examples. 

Drill and practice is a must when it comes to studying high school mathematics.  Internalize the concept and make it your own, and then practice, practice, practice!  Do your homework and review it often, really thinking about what you had to do as you worked through the problems. 

If your math course requires use of a calculator, and it probably will, be sure that you become very familiar with the calculator you intend to use and then use the same one every day.  Each calculator is different and if you don't use the same one all the time, you can find yourself having to spend time learning how to use calculators rather than on important concepts of the lesson.

Perhaps the most important thing of all is to not be afraid to ask questions.  Speak up when you don't understand.   Nothing is more frustrating for a teacher than not knowing when a student is having trouble until it's too late.  Remember, that teacher really does want you to succeed! 

More resources for overcoming math anxiety:




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