Monday, June 16, 2014

Math Phobia - A Problem for Modern Math Teachers

How many math teachers have heard a parent say, "My daughter/son is not anxious with any other teachers... it is just your class!"?

Last week, as we were heading for finals, I heard this again. My response... Yes, math does cause anxiety for many students. It is the most common class to cause fear. You can find many articles, about the phenomenon, on the Internet. You will probably not find ONE about Social Studies anxiety or English phobia. Please try to remember that it is the subject matter, not the teacher, that most often causes the problem. It is a problem related to performance anxiety in the subject.

What can parents do to help their kids with math phobia? They can do the exact same practices that they use to help their children with reading and other subjects. When a child is small, a parent will sing the alphabet, read to him, take her to the library, recite nursery rhymes, etc.

For math, play counting games. Start with 10s, then 5s, 2s, and so on. Play mental math games. I often did this on road trips when my kids were small (captive audience). For example, "What two numbers add to 7 but multiply to 12?" Answer: 3 and 4. Start with numbers between 1 and 10. As the child gets more accomplished, add larger numbers and negatives.

A parent, who is NOT afraid of math, who interacts with a child in a relaxed, comfortable manner, playing math and number games, will produce a strong, confident math student, much less likely to suffer from math anxiety.

I tell parents: If you see a child who is afraid of the water, you will find a parent who is also afraid of the water. If you, the parent, tell your child that you are unable to do math, or that you were never any good at it, then you will reap what you sow. YOU will be the underlying cause of your child's anxiety. Please remember that when you confront and blame the teacher.

1 comment:

Saragnese said...

The anxiety is probably compounded by adults who think nothing of saying - in public - "I could never do math. I can't even balance my own checkbook!" followed by a hearty laugh. Those same adults would never say they couldn't read! It drives THIS math teacher crazy!

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