Do You Suffer From Math Anxiety
– Saima Eman
PhD Commonwealth Scholar, University of Sheffield, UK.
Do you struggle with numbers? Don’t worry, you are not alone and there is even a word for it; Dyscalculia.
I still remember, how my kindergarten teacher slapped children on their faces when they did not follow the instructions regarding writing of numbers in a certain format. Helpless children often go through corporal punishments in schools even nowadays just because they are unable to display an acceptable level of performance on one or more of their courses (Maqsood & Ijaz, 2013). Unfortunately, maths and statistics teachers can be the least understanding and empathetic towards their pupils (Lu, 2015; Strogatz, 2014). The stringent expectations of the teachers and parents, the lack of ability to meet those expectations, fear of disapproval and punishment develops anxiety related to a specific course. Math disorder and math anxiety is one of the major reasons why students might not do well at numeracy. Math anxiety has shown to affect working memory score on the WAIS intelligence test as well (Buelow&Frakey, 2013).
Math anxiety can be obvious in the form of dizziness, sweating and increased heart rate (Puteh, &Khalin, 2015). However, parents might consider such symptoms as an excuse for avoiding homework instead of considering the problem as a neurological or developmental disorder. Related to math anxiety is a subtype of dyslexia known as Dyscalculia. Those with math anxiety are at risk for dyslexia (Jordan, McGladdery, & Dyer, 2014). Dyscalculia is a pervasive math disorder in which mathematical calculations become extremely difficult due to the presence of a brain disorder. Individuals with dyscaluculia might have hyper-connectivity within certain regions of the brain, which could be a reason for deficits in numerical processing (Rosenberg‐Lee, Ashkenazi, Chen, Young, Geary, &Menon, 2015).
Recent research(Fhloinn , 2010; Supekar, Luculano, Chen, &Menon, 2015) shows that students with math anxiety can do well on a one to one basis. This means that children need more understanding from their parents and teachers as well as more space to cope with their fears, ask questions, focus their attention whole heartedly on the task in order to successfully accomplish it. We must remember that most children are not born with exceptional mathematical/numeracy abilities. Therefore, teaching mathematics in a way that generates more interest in numeracy requires mathematical teaching skills.
All the scientific findings (Buelow & Frakey, 2013; Fhloinn , 2010; Lu, 2015; Maqsood & Ijaz, 2013; Puteh, & Khalin, 2015; Jordan et. al., 2014; Strogatz, 2014; Supekar et. al., 2015) assert the need for considering and examining the underlying neurological and inherent deficits and changing the methods through which children learn.It is not only about neurological deficits but each and every person is an individual with different learning requirements. These days numeracy is taught through games, wooden tools, exciting activities such as shopping, or anything that the child enjoys doing. Limiting a child to a certain activity might set a certain state of mind in which one becomes averse to learning at a very early stage. Aversion to mathematics at an early stage can negatively affect lifelong numeracy learning patterns and a motivation to learn mathematics or numeracy. Therefore, parents and teachers need to understand psychological factors such as anxiety as well as inherent abilities before expecting the child to outperform others in a certain setting and in certain way. Teaching effectively generally requires flexibility and patience, specifically numeracy teaching.