Mathematics anxiety


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Mathematics anxiety

  1. 1. The WH of Phenomena of Mathematics AnxietyWhat Is It Mathematics Anxiety? Mathematics anxiety has been defined as the state of feeling pressure and worry thatinterfere with the manipulation of numbers and the solving mathematical problems in a widevariety of ordinary life and academic solutions. Those who suffer mathematics anxiety mayforget and lose their self-confidence. They also feel that they cannot afford to do activities andclasses that involve mathematics. This phenomena, as can be seen in long run, results phobiaand fear of mathematics where those phobics, have even decided not to take programmes thatrequire high mathematical skill in their higher educations. Therefore their consideration inchoosing their study fields includes how little mathematics is required among those optionsobtained. Although this problem is catagorised as an emotional problem, rather than an intellectualproblem, but as can be seen, this emotional problem however interferes with a person’s ability inlearning mathematics. Therefore it is also an intellectual problem. Perhaps, not many couldimagine, how far they can possibly go in mathematics field without the mathematics anxiety. Butthose suffer this emotional and intellectual problem, had been somehow demotivated by themental block to give themselves a try in exploring mathematics deeper and taking the challenge. As in the immidiate effect that can be seen from those suffer this psychological problem,their mind can suddenly go blank even while facing simple mathematical problem. Some signssuch as sweating palms, clenched fists, cold sweat, faster heart beat are physical responseaffected by mathematics anxiety. For some people, the degree of pressure they feel towards mathematical work might bedifferent. They only experience the unpleasant feeling when facing examinations, while in theirlife, they are devoted mathematicians. What seemed to be a more critical issue in discussingmathematics anxiety is perhaps those psychological effects that had been touched as the long-term effects of mathematics anxiety before, such as becoming mathematics phobic.
  2. 2. Why Does It Happen? The discussion on the causes of mathematics anxiety may include those causes that canbe identified by the people affected. Those people, know exactly when it happened. But for somepeople, they do not remember when exactly they got it. Although this problem discussed may seemed involved many students, be it schoolstudents, primary, secondary, and colleges, but it is also involved teacher. Teachers in primaryschool for example, suffer this problem for lack of mathematics foundation, together with thenature of the subject itself. The negative perception towards mathematics among teachers, especially the traineesgives impact to the students. The students have large tendency to hate mathematics as well.Likewise the teachers with large passion towards mathematics, seeing world mathematically,talking about mathematical ideas, live with mathematics, are higly likely will produce passionatestudents towards mathematics. It can be said that adults transmit their mathematics anxiety to children. Other thanteachers, the feeling also transmitted by parents. Parents who do not like mathematics alsotransmit the feeling to their kids. There are parents who refuse to assist their children withmathematics homeworks and tell their children that they do not like the subject, the subject ishard, and so forth. Therefore this kind of destructive excuses demotivate the students especiallyprimary school children to try mathematics, having patience in understanding the idea, anddevelop their enthusiasm towards the knowledge. People also may have mathematics anxiety because of their past experience. They hadbeen scolded and embarrassed by their mathematics teachers, or they failed their mathematicsexaminations. Students in secondary have mathematics anxiety influenced by their seniors thatsaid mathematics are difficult in higher form. Those juniors developed their negative perceptionabout mathematics and planned to give up, while they did not even face and try it!
  3. 3. Who Has It? Mathematics anxiety experienced by children and adults. Among adults, this strain alsoinvolves trainee teachers. This anxiety may be caused by several factors such as lack of strongmathematics foundation as mentioned before. This situation can be caused by lack of experience,and because of these, low confidence level among trainee teachers. Some of them have misperception towards mathematics. There are trainees that seemathematics as just computations or calculations that relate to numbers and symbols, andtherefore tedious, boring or confusing. On the other hands, mathematics is seen as problem solving and therefore difficult.Mathematics also has rules and formulae to be memorised and there is a right way of doing it,need lots of concentration and practice, and therefore is a hard work. Those above, eventhough true, but not 100 percent true. Mathematics anyway, should berelated to everyday life instead. Mathematics is a tool in solving problems we face in everydaylife. Therefore, to see the ‘true story’, we interpret mathematical numbers in explaining realsituations. Mathematics as most people do not realise, is a study of patterns and relationships, away of thinking, an art, and a language to many knowledge such as physics and economics. Butbecause of the negative perception, people somehow develop negative attitude towardsmathematics. Teachers with mathematics anxiety transmit the feeling to students by the way theyconduct their classes and mathematics activities. Therefore school students is another group thataffected by this anxiety. It is even worse, the pressure continues when they persue their studiesinto secondary level and university. University students may show discouraging interest inmathematics in term of the choice of optional modules chosen. They avoid choosing modulesinvolving lots of mathematical work or they just pass without understanding the idea. Subesequently, they build the personality as mathematics phobics and becomemathematics phobics parents, transmitting the phobia to kids, and generate the generation ofmathematics anxiety.
  4. 4. When It Happens? Mathematics anxiety can be developed since childhood. Some people realise whenexactly it happened. But for some people, they do not remember when exactly they got it, thendevelop the feeling and subconsciously live with it. Students in school may experience mathematics anxiety due to the method mathematicsis taught in classroom. Some students are shy to ask teacher because somehow, asking seemedto be an inappropriate behavior in certain culture. Therefore students are not be able to expresstheir difficulties. This shows that the students will not achieve the understanding they areexpected to achieve as the learning outcome. At the end they will not master mathematical skillsas supposed. Still in school. Examinations especially public examinations, together with parents’aspiration and standard create the pressure among students. They are afraid of failing eitherbecause they are shy with other friends, or being scolded by parents, being compared with othersiblings and other friends, or they can be also other internal and external factor not mentionedhere. Skillful mathematics teachers are capable of bringing mathematics into real life. Thisneeds a highly motivated teachers that enable to see mathematics in their everyday life, andmaking relationship between things happen around them with mathematical concepts. Those enthusiast teachers transmit their enthusiasm as well to students. Due to this factor,students will be able to see the relevance of mathematics to their lives. Mathematics, as can beseen as a tool, have meanings behind the numbers. It is not just a boring meaningless numbers.But good teachers, and hence good students are capable in interpreting and explaining what thenumbers show. Therefore, mathematics examination anxiety, because still experienced byexcellent students, does not make those students hate the knowledge because they still appreciateit and use it in life.
  5. 5. What/ Who Created It? People who live in a society that hold bad perception towards mathematics somehowaffect one’s belief towards mathematics. Unless the person is highly motivated, she or he incontrast takes that as a challenge and proves that she or he can excel in mathematics and feel thebeauty of mathematics. The low motivated people however are affected by the negative publicperception and plan not to even try. School students can be affected by their seniors’ perception towards mathematics. Forexample, those form four students might share with their form two juniors how difficultadditional mathematics is that all of them in the class failed. These destructive opinion,eventhough is true, but inappropriately shared with students in lower form. The juniors built theperception and became less confidence and worried before even tried it and faced it on theirown. This mental block distracted their effort to achieve high understanding in additionalmathematics while they may actually have the ability to go beyond what they think they are. This kind of phobia, together with the peer influence makes additional mathematics evenharder. There may still be students who are motivated to try, but there is no support fromclassmates. Some concepts may need discussion, but they have no one to discuss with becauseother friends choose to give up. Or they might feel that it is better joining the crowd and not tocare about additional mathematics. Mathematics examination anxiety also may cause mathematics anxiety. Those people thatexperience failure may hate the subjects. Even worse, if they are blamed by teachers and parentsfor failing, that makes the pressure become more critical. They later become phobia of numbers.But there are students who do have examination anxiety, but they love mathematics. Theysometimes do not get good grade, or fail, but that does not make them hating mathematics.Therefore it comes to the motivation in students and also the way the ideas of mathematics aretaught in class. If the students are able to see the relevance of mathematics to their life, they willappreciate it. They still use the concept of mathematics in life even they fail in examinationsanyway.
  6. 6. How Do You Reduce It? School and university students with mathematics anxiety may reduce the feeling bypractising more problems. The feeling may due to lack of confidence, therefore exercises helpstudents to strengthen their understanding. What is important also, checking answers forexercises. Even better, discuss with friends the solutions and have each other’s opinionsexchanged. By doing these, students may detect their misunderstandings and correct them. Thisstep helps students not to bring their misunderstandings that they think are true to the next topicsor exercises. Strong understanding in earlier chapter also helps making the next topicsunderstood better and revision becomes more effective and efficient. Try to solve more difficult questions if possible. Therefore, because harder problems hadbeen successfully faced, ones will be more ready and confident in facing the easier problems.Students that apply study group should share their worries and difficulties to other friends so thatthey feel better and their friends may help in strengthening the understanding.How Do You Eliminate It? First thing that should be done in eliminating mathematics anxiety is to admit that theyhave mathematics anxiety. Only after having this type of awareness ones will be able to reduceit, and eliminate it. It is necessary to find the cause by mean of reflection and consultation. For trainee teachers with mathematics anxiety, it is suggested that they solve themathematical problems they provide to students and experience the difficulties first beforedistributing the problem sheets. This is to make sure that they are ready and confident enough toanswer students’ questions pertaining those problems . These teachers need trust from students toachive higher level of confidence, and one of the criteria is the capability of answering theirquestions. This method however needs motivation in trainee teachers. It does necessary anywaythat a teacher keeps their motivation high, as motivated students come from motivated teachers.It is impossible to produce passionate, hardworking, enthusiast students if the teachers do notdevelop these characters in them in the first place.