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The Fear of Numbers

 

By Shane Marie K. Canono                       

 

The only way to learn Mathematics is to do Mathematics,” said Paul Halmos. Yet for some—or most—students, that’s easier said than done. Students who find the subject difficult feel tensed and uncomfortable when their teacher asks them to solve math on the board. They’d be embarrassed because they would have no idea at all how to solve the problem. Worse, that might lead to trauma and anxiety. Many people in this world are afraid of solving mathematical problems; even when they are asked to manipulate simple numbers, they would freak out. That feeling is called Math anxiety, the fear of numbers.

In his article published by BBC, David Robson said, “Even the simple task of splitting a restaurant bill brings me out in a cold sweat. No matter how hard I concentrate, the numbers somehow slide from my mental grasp, and I’m left with a looming shadow in place of the answer.” But he was relieved when he knew he’s not the only one with that condition. Furthermore, he supposed students have felt the anxiety through their own teacher. Children are able to sense if an adult feels tensed or uneasy. Teachers who are nervous and uncertain with their mathematical abilities are most likely to have more anxious students. In addition, pressure from parents must be one cause of the anxiety. If a child does not meet the parent’s expectations, he/she will get depressed over the subject, which would gradually turn into fear.

Faye Cui is among the many students who feel they are not good in Math. The sophomore English major admits the techniques in solving Math problems are difficult for her. When a test comes, she feels tensed and ends up just staring at the test paper. When the lesson is easy and interesting for her, she doesn’t feel the anxiety. But there’s no denying that it could still affect her academic studies. In such cases, Marilyn Curtain-Phillips, a Mathematics teacher, suggests that what students need is practical Math. For her, “To learn Mathematics, students must be engaged in exploring, conjecturing, and thinking rather than engaging only in rote learning of rules and procedures.” Anxieties are usually treated with aversion therapy, said David. It is where a person faces his/her fears in order to find a solution in getting rid of the trauma. Psychologists often use that method; however, continued Math classes don’t seem to work on students. Dr. Kari Miller, the director of Miller Educational Excellence, says that making students observeon how math is used in everyday lives can help lessen the anxiety, such as shopping, banking, and travelling. She also recommends letting the kids engage in calculation games for they can help them connect with Math.

Most importantly, students must not stress too much on not being good at Math. Instead, they must focus on how to deal with it without harming their career path. According to an article—“Coping with Math Anxiety”—from Platonic Realms, the constructive way to manage Math anxiety is called “taking possession.” It means being as conscious as possible in the roots of the anxiety, being able to accept it without criticizing oneself, and plotting out plans on how it cannot affect the future goals, especially the career.Just like Faye. She is aware of her anxiety, but she doesn’t care much about it. She moves on with her life and does whatever she wants. She has set her own goals. Just because others excel doesn’t mean a person with Math anxiety—or any other kind of anxiety—won’t. Math is supposed to build up the society. It shouldn’t be a tool to discriminate others. Subtract the negativity, not add pressure. Math isn’t “Mental Abuse to Humans,” but it’s the false impression that has caused the abuse.~

 

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