The fact that a condition known as “mathematical anxiety” even exists tells you that mathematics induces nerve-tracking terror in many people the world over.
For many students, the nights before math exams are filled with feverish studying because the thought of a big red zero gracing their exam papers haunts them. Here are 6 reasons why math has assumed demonic proportions in the minds of many students.
1. Reason – An anxious teacher creates anxious students – This might seem hard to believe but a teacher who fears math or demonizes the subject himself/herself is going to transfer that fear onto their students. These students might even like Math but when they hear their teacher talk about difficult math is, how hard it is and how important it is that they not fail in it, all the enjoyment is sucked out of math.
Solution – Don’t demonize math. Let your students know that everyone is capable of math and believe that for yourself too.
2. Reason – Emphasis on Math Rigidity and Accuracy – When math is taught, students are taught that there is only one way of arriving at an answer and that arriving at a correct answer is very important. Many teachers don’t concentrate on whether or not a child has learnt the concept and only focus on arriving at the correct answer. When this happens, the child begins to negatively associate math with rigidity, when in reality, mathematics contains a number of possibilities in the broadest sense.
Solution – Allow your students to explore different methods of solving problems.
3. Reason – The Absence of A Good Teacher – Math also suffers from a severe lack of good teachers. In many countries, teachers are only well-versed in a few areas of mathematics and ill-informed in others. This means that they provide an imbalanced education in turn to their students.
Solution – Schools should include screening tests before recruiting teachers, and gauge their math and teaching aptitude.
4. Reason – Math is taught through rote memorization, not problem solving – Being good at math is strongly tied to having a good memory simply because in traditional methods of teaching, a lot of mathematical concepts are taught through rote memorization, without reasoning or logic to back them up. In reality, a child becomes good at math when they are able to solve problems by applying reason and logic, not by simply remembering formulae that they don’t understand.
Solution – Instead of memorization, teach them math through problem solving and logical reasoning.
5. Reason – Math seems like an abstract concept, rather than something connected to real life – Math problems commonly go like this: X brought a length of rope (a), Y brought a quarter of the length of rope (b) that X did and Z brought 7m of rope and half the length of rope that Y did. How much rope did X buy? While this is a grossly exaggerated problem (and quite possibly not solvable) to who already struggles with math, this problem is simply baffling. And the foremost question that comes to mind is, who really cares what length of rope X brought and how will this even help me after I graduate.
Solution – Perhaps if students knew about mathematics concepts and how they apply to everything around us( the Fibonacci sequence, symmetry, the weather, money, fuel mileage etc.), then math would seem a lot more approachable and understandable.
6. Reason – A Lack of Understanding – Math is made up of a number of steps, many of which are minute in nature. A failure to learn or understand even a single step has far-reaching consequences. Students begin to fall behind and if that step is fundamental to learning other concepts, then they are unable to learn those concepts and slowly, this inability to go beyond a step builds up and the child becomes frustrated and decides that math is no longer something that is accessible to them.
Solution – When teaching concepts, teachers may need to go around the classroom and see if the students are able to understand each step. If the teacher is unable to help every child in the classroom, because there are too many students, then he/she can introduce the concept of peer-to-peer assistance where students who have understood the concept can help others who are stuck.
How do you and your students tackle math? Let us know in the comments below!