Sweaty palms, the knot tightening in your stomach, heartbeat racing, and you are cold as ice. Does this happen with you when you have your math book in front of you and an unsolved set of questions, constantly reminding you that you cannot do it? Math Phobia is actually real. There are millions of children around the world, who are not confident about their calculative skills. Forget being confident, they are actually scared of math.
This fear of math can be daunting, affecting not just the academic life of any student, but also self-confidence and the belief that, “I can do it.” A lot of research and analyses have been done on this concept of ‘Fear of Math’ or ‘Math Phobia’. While there can be several reasons leading to this fear of not being capable enough to do math calculations, however, according to the experts, it is all just in the mind. The experts say that, like any other fear, Math phobia is also just the mind, playing a toll on you. But whatever may be the reasons, Math phobia is real and here is how to deal with it.
If put in simple words, phobia means ‘fear’ and the fear of math or not having the confidence of efficiently solving mathematical problems is defined as ‘Math Phobia’. According to educational psychologist Frank Richardson and counselling psychologist Richard Suinn, Math Phobia is, “A feeling of tension and anxiety that interferes with the manipulation of numbers and the solving of mathematical problems in a wide variety of ordinary life and academic situations.”
Math phobia can strike anyone at any age. A person suffering from the fear of math firmly starts believing that they are simply incapable of doing anything related to math. And the worst part of the fear is even though a student might know the solution to the equation, but the anxiety and nervousness cause them to freeze and they end up either quitting or doing it wrong.
Some of the main symptoms of math phobia are:
- Psychological effects: students get unusually nervous even with the thought of doing math.
- Feeling of permanency: they start believing that if they are not good at now, they will never be.
- Intense emotional reactions: students start panicking, get angry, or are on the verge of crying, just with the thought of dealing with math and calculations.
- Negative self-talk: students will often say, they hate math, they will never be able to do it right, or they just can’t do it.
- Avoidance: since students with math phobia believe that they cannot do it, they completely start avoiding the subject.
For many students, math is the toughest subject. This negative thought process towards the subject makes it all the more difficult for them to even try and understand the basics. The constant failure of not being able to perform further scares the student and draws them farther away from the subject. In situations like this, students develop a fixed mind frame and start believing “I cannot do the math. I don’t like it. Math is too difficult for me. I will never be able to do it.” At this point, as an educator or a parent, you play a vital role in driving away from this stigma of math phobia. Below are some quick tips to help the student overcome their fear of math.
The first and most important step is to acknowledge that the student is suffering from the fear and make the child realise that it is just a fear in the head. Once the child understands this, overcoming the phobia becomes easy.
Do not force the child to practice math every day or understand and memorise the formulas etc. If you force, it will make matters worse. Instead, work out a way to make math interesting for the child. Teach the basic concepts in a fun learning way, taking small steps at a time and going at a pace that suits the child.
Try to inculcate math in everyday life. Once the child starts getting accustomed to math everywhere, the fear will gradually fade away and the student will start becoming more comfortable with the subject.
Teachers should try to accommodate different styles of teaching math. They should create a variety of testing environments, refrain from linking self-esteem to success with math, and emphasize the importance of original and quality thinking rather than rote manipulation of formulas. To learn math in depth, students need to engage in exploration, guessing, and reflection. Teachers should engage in more experimenting activities when dealing with children facing math phobia.
The Kumon method of teaching aims to allow students to go beyond their school level through self-study and self-evaluation. The Kumon math program focuses on building a solid foundation for children through self-study from the very beginning. At Kumon, children study at their own pace with the help of personalised self-assessment worksheets that are suitable for them. The worksheets are based on the potential and capability of the child.
The Kumon method of teaching helps your child to effectively improve their abilities to achieve their goals in the shortest possible time.