Monday, August 23, 2010

Overcoming Fear of Math

I have always loved working with numbers and mathematics. In fact, I have often found myself working through complex math problems in my head while going out for a run or performing other activities. I can quite easily calculate the perfect square of any number from 1 to 100. In fact, I have sometimes challenged my math students to calculate any perfect square from 1 to 100 on their calculator than I can calculate it in my head. I rarely lose ...

So, fear of math is not a concept with which I easily identify. However, I readily acknowledge that all of my students do not come into my class excited about learning math. One thing that is true about fears or phobias is that fears often paralyze people to the point that they do not know what to do. Because they do not know what to do, they sometimes do nothing.

I have tried my best to alleviate these kinds of fears by breaking problems into simpler steps and getting students to perform the simple steps. Sometimes a student may be 'stuck' on a problem because they cannot perform a math operation such as "15 - 3". If I see a student stuck like that, I will hand them a calculator and tell them to use it if they need it. I see no reason for something this simple to paralyze one of my students.

Here is a video on math phobia which puts the onus on teachers to make math problems more practical real world problems than theoretical problems. I also found these tips for students to help students to reduce their own math anxiety by using a number of mental techniques to take the fear out of learning math. I believe that there is a find line between students having a legitimate fear of math and students not wanting to 'do' math because it is hard work. One of my jobs as a teacher is to push students who do not want to work but be sensitive to students who truly do get paralyzed by a problem.

I will comment separately on others' blogs about ways in which to possibly reduce math-a-phobia in some lesson plans.


  1. Learning is always fun if taken in the right spirit. And, math is a very good and important subject to learn. I think you can take help of a tutor to get out of your math phobia. You can ask your parents or school teachers to help you. Otherwise, you can take advantage of any online tutoring services like My daughter uses it and has improved her grades.

  2. Norah -

    Great suggestions! Sometimes, one-on-one works very well for students to overcome the fear. When students take the initiative to come to me for individual help, I believe it is always a benefit for them.