# «A Resource Guide for Parents and Teens Developed and Compiled by the Youth Council of the DuPage Workforce Board A Letter to Parents: Your teen’s ...»

Usually math anxiety stems from unpleasant experiences in mathematics. Typically math phobias have had math presented in such a fashion that it led to limited understanding. Unfortunately, math anxiety is often due to poor teaching and poor experiences in math which typically leads to math anxiety. Many of the students with math anxiety have demonstrated an over reliance on procedures in math as opposed to actually understanding the math. When one tries to memorize procedures, rules and routines without much understanding, the math is quickly forgotten and panic soon sets in. Think about your experiences with one concept - the division of fractions. You probably learned about reciprocals and inverses. In other words, “It's not yours to reason why, just invert and multiply.” Well, you memorized the rule and it works. Why does it work? Do you really understand why it works? Did anyone every use pizzas or math manipulatives to show you why it works? If not, you simply memorized the procedure and that was that. Think of math as memorizing all the procedures - what if you forget a few? Therefore, with this type of strategy, a good memory will help, but, what if you don’t have a good memory? Understanding the math is critical. Once students realize they can do the math, the whole notion of math anxiety can be overcome. Teachers and parents have an important role to ensure students understand the math being presented to them.

Symptoms and Causes of Math Anxiety Most students experience a certain degree of math anxiety at some point during their school careers. Read on to learn more about what causes math anxiety, and the way that math anxiety can manifest itself.

Math anxiety is a feeling of frustration about the inability to perform mathematical functions. Students experience such anxiety in varying levels of intensity but for some, simply going to a math class can be a challenge. Even home schooled students can experience this anxiety.

Symptoms There are four symptoms that are most common: panic, paranoia, passive behavior, and lack of confidence.

1. Panic: The student or adult has a feeling of helplessness that will not go away. It feels like a wave of terror has washed over their body.

2. Paranoia: The student or adult thinks they are the only person not capable of completing the math, even if it is a very complicated math such as calculus.

3. Passive Behavior: The student or adult decides they will never understand or be comfortable with math, so they actively decide they will do nothing about their problem.

4. Lack of Confidence: The student or adult anticipate the feeling of helplessness and expect to never know the answer to the problem. They also second guess their math work. They rely on other people in their life to help them complete math functions such as balancing their checkbook.

Since math anxiety does produce real symptoms and emotions within people, it is important for parents to distinguish these characteristics within their children when they happen and to recognize their child is experiencing math anxiety.

Many students and adults do not understand why they experience math anxiety. They automatically assume that it is because they are unintelligent or were born without a talent for mathematics. This simply is not true. Even the most accomplished mathematicians and college level professors sometimes experience symptoms related to math anxiety.

Causes Math anxiety is usually linked to a negative math experience from a person's past. This could be being punished by a parent or teacher for failing to master a mathematical concept or being embarrassed in front of a sibling or group of peers when failing to correctly complete a math problem. To a parent, this could have been the smallest or silliest mistake, but it very well could have left an impression on the student if made to feel ashamed or embarrassed.

Timed tests and the risk of public embarrassment are two contributing factors of math anxiety. Even if a student has no problems completing their work at home, they could temporarily forget the needed math concepts in the middle of a major test. Since the outcome of tests usually affects a student's overall math grade, the negative results of math anxiety reinforce their feeling of inadequacy, thus creating a cycle of anxiety and failure.

**What Your Student Can Do:**

1. A positive attitude will help. However, positive attitudes come with quality teaching for understanding which often isn't the case with many traditional approaches to teaching mathematics.

2. Ask questions, be determined to 'understand the math'. Don't settle for anything less during instruction. Ask for clear illustrations and or demonstrations or simulations.

3. Practice regularly, especially when you're having difficulty.

4. When total understanding escapes you, hire a tutor or work with peers that understand the math. You can do the math, sometimes it just take a different approach for you to understand some of the concepts.

5. Don't just read over your notes - do the math. Practice the math and make sure you can honestly state that you understand what you are doing.

6. Be persistent and don't over emphasize the fact that we all make mistakes. Remember, some of the most powerful learning stems from making a mistake.

Source: About.com

**What Parents Can Do:**

One of the best ways to help someone overcome math anxiety is through positive reinforcement of the child's intelligence and skills. Instead of giving a student negative criticism for doing poorly on a test or assignment, review with them the problems and skills they were able to master. It is also beneficial to surround your child with accomplished and optimistic students and adults.

Find available tutors. Tutors are a great resource parents should investigate when trying to help their students overcome math anxiety. Tutors can offer one-on-one individualized math instruction. Statistics show that students who complete online tutoring can have measurable results in their level of self-confidence.

Source: Math and Reading Help www.mathandreadinghelp.org Do You Have Math Anxiety?

(Source: http://www.mathpower.com/anxtest.htm) A Self Test Rate your answers from 1 to 5; add them up and check your score below. (1) = Disagree, (5) = Agree.

1. I cringe when I have to go to math class.

1 2 3 4 5

2. I am uneasy about going to the board in a math class.

1 2 3 4 5

3. I am afraid to ask questions in math class.

1 2 3 4 5

4. I am always worried about being called on in math class.

1 2 3 4 5

5. I understand math now, but I worry that it's going to get really difficult soon.

1 2 3 4 5

6. I tend to zone out in math class.

1 2 3 4 5

7. I fear math tests more than any other kind.

1 2 3 4 5

8. I don't know how to study for math tests.

1 2 3 4 5

9. It's clear to me in math class, but when I go home it's like I was never there.

1 2 3 4 5

10. I'm afraid I won't be able to keep up with the rest of the class.

1 2 3 4 5

**Check your score:**

40-50 No doubt! You have math anxiety!

30-39 You're still fearful about math.

20-29 On the fence….

10-19 Relaxed and confident.

Some More Practical Steps to Reduce Math Anxiety

1. Learn stress management and relaxation techniques.

Techniques such as deep breathing and meditation that help you to relax in any stressful situation can also be helpful when dealing with the nervousness and tension that affect students with math anxiety.

2. Combat negative thinking.

Lack of confidence can be a major impediment for students with math anxiety. Replace those negative thoughts (“I can’t do this”, “I’ve never been good at math”, “I won’t finish in time”) with confidencebuilding affirmations (“I know this”, “I’m prepared”, “I can do this”).

3. Visualize yourself succeeding.

Athletes use the technique of “visualization” to prepare for major competitions. Imagine yourself being relaxed doing math and during a test and confidently solving the problems.

4. Do “easiest” problems first.

Build up your confidence by first doing those problems in an assignment or on a test that you “know” best. It’ll help you relax when you tackle the “harder” stuff.

5. Channel your stress into something else.

Free up your mind by relieving some of your physical responses to stress. Get up and run around the hall for a minute before the test or squeeze a stress ball like crazy during the test.

6. Start preparing early.

If you try to “cram” the material quickly, you are likely to forget it quickly too. If you practice the material over a period of time, you will have a better understanding of it and are less likely to forget it when under stress.

7. Take care of yourself.

Although it’s not easy when you’re in school, eating and sleeping well helps your body and mind function to their fullest potential.

8. Try to understand the “why” of math concepts rather than memorizing.

The first thing to go when you are under stress is your short-term memory. This is one reason it is so important to understand that math is not just a set of rules that you have to memorize but that each concept builds on what came before. If you understand the reason behind the rules, you will remember the concepts better and be able to apply them in many different types of problems (not just ones you’ve seen before).

9. Find a support group.

A support group is especially helpful for adults with math anxiety.

10. Reward yourself for hard work.

After completing a difficult assignment or an exam, it’s time to give yourself a break. Have a chocolate...

or a party! There are, of course, many more strategies that can help with math anxiety. Check out these websites for more

**self-help techniques:**

http://www.mathpower.com/ http://www.trumbull.kent.edu/academic_services/tutoring/strategies.cfm Source: Weber State University What is Math Anxiety?

Math anxiety or fear of math is actually quite common. Math anxiety is quite similar to stagefright. Why does someone suffer stagefright? Fear of something going wrong in front of a crowd? Fear of forgetting the lines? Fear of being judged poorly? Fear of going completely blank? Math anxiety conjures up fear of some type. The fear that one won't be able to do the math or the fear that it's too hard or the fear of failure which often stems from having a lack of confidence. For the most part, math anxiety is the fear about doing the math right, our minds draw a blank and we think we'll fail and of course the more frustrated and anxious our minds become, the greater the chance for drawing blanks. Added pressure of having time limits on math tests and exams also cause the levels of anxiety grow for many students.

**Where Does Math Anxiety Come From?**

Usually math anxiety stems from unpleasant experiences in mathematics. Typically math phobics have had math presented in such a fashion that it led to limited understanding.

Unfortunately, math anxiety is often due to poor teaching and poor experiences in math which typically leads to math anxiety. Many of the students I've encountered with math anxiety have demonstrated an over reliance on procedures in math as opposed to actually understanding the math. When one tries to memorize procedures, rules and routines without much understanding, the math is quickly forgotten and panic soons sets in. Think about your experiences with one concept - the division of fractions. You probably learned about reciprocals and inverses. In other words, 'It's not yours to reason why, just invert and multiply'. Well, you memorized the rule and it works. Why does it work? Do you really understand why it works? Did anyone every use pizzas or math manipulatives to show you why it works? If not, you simply memorized the procedure and that was that. Think of math as memorizing all the procedures - what if you forget a few? Therefore, with this type of strategy, a good memory will help, but, what if you dont' have a good memory. Understanding the math is critical. Once students realize they can do the math, the whole notion of math anxiety can be overcome. Teachers and parents have an important role to ensure students understand the math being presented to them.

Myths and Misconceptions None of the following are true!

You're born with a math gene, either you get it or you don't.

Math is for males, females never get math!

It's hopeless, and much too hard for average people.

If the logical side of your brain isn't your strenght, you'll never do well in math.

Math is a cultural thing, my culture never got it!

There's only one right way to do math.

Overcoming Math Anxiety

1. A positive attitude will help. However, positive attitudes come with quality teaching for understanding which often isn't the case with many traditional approaches to teaching mathematics.

2. Ask questions, be determined to 'understand the math'. Don't settle for anything less during instruction. Ask for clear illustrations and or demonstrations or simulations.

3. Practice regularly, especially when you're having difficulty.

4. When total understanding escapes you, hire a tutor or work with peers that understand the math. You can do the math, sometimes it just take a different approach for you to understand some of the concepts.

5. Don't just read over your notes - do the math. Practice the math and make sure you can honestly state that you understand what you are doing.

6. Be persistent and don't over emphasize the fact that we all make mistakes. Remember, some of the most powerful learning stems from making a mistake.