Cowley College

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Study Skills

Math Anxiety

OK, so math makes a lot of people nervous. Is there any hope? You bet there is. Below are a few helpful hints. Maybe they can help take the myth-tery out of math.

  1. No one is alone! Relax. Many people dislike and are nervous about math. Even mathematicians are unsure of themselves and get that sinking, panicky feeling called "math anxiety" when they first confront a new problem.
  2. If there is math anxiety, admit it. If one pretends not to have it, he or she will not learn to overcome or manage it.
  3. Practice a little math each day. (Mozart did not learn how to play the piano just by watching.)
  4. Ask questions. Some people think asking questions is a sign of weakness. It's not. It's a sign of strength. In fact, other students will be glad. (They have questions too.)
  5. Do math in a way that's natural. There's often more than one way to work a math problem. Maybe the teacher's way stumps a student at first. Don't give up. Work to understand it in a way that is comfortable. Then it will be easier to understand it the teacher's way. Remember, "Each mind has its own method."
  6. Notice the handwriting when doing math. The sloppier it gets the more confused or angry one becomes. When it gets really sloppy, STOP. Look away for a few seconds. Then erase the messy parts. Start again. Try to not let attitude interfere with learning math.
  7. Know the basics. Review math from earlier grades. Maybe a student missed something. Face it: math builds on itself. One has to go back and relearn it. (Don't think, "I couldn't learn it before, so I can't learn it now." Remember, it's never too late to learn.
  8. Don't go by memory alone. Try to understand math. Memorizing is a real trap. When one is nervous, memory is the first to go.
  9. Trouble with the text? Get another math book. Maybe a book in the library will explain things better.
  10. Get help. Everyone needs help now and then. Try to form a study group with friends. Two heads (or three) are better than one. Get a tutor, or take a review course. Click here to take Math Study Skills Inventory.

"Do You Have Math Anxiety?: A Self Test" and " Ten Ways to Cut Down on Math Anxiety" are presented, with minor changes, from, "Nervous in Numberland," Scholastic Math, September, 1984, pp. 9 and 11. [From Math! A Four Letter Word: Study Guide, Public Films, Inc., 1988, pp. 29-31.