Math anxiety is a psychological problem. It’s “a feeling of tension, apprehension, or fear that interferes with math performance” Ashcraft, M.H. (2002) Math anxiety: Personal, educational, and cognitive consequences
Math anxiety can start early. Some children as young as age 5 show signs of serious math anxiety. It can escalate with increased difficulties in understanding math and strategies of math avoidance that makes the anxiety worse as children get older.
As adults, studies show that math anxiety severely limits the individual’s opportunities and income. It also reduces life span for generations.
“Inequality in the distribution of mathematics skills is closely related to how wealth is shared within nations, and amongst nations.” What 15-year-olds know and what they can do with what they know, p.5, 6. PISA 2012 Results in Focus
If math anxiety is left to run the course of increasing severity over time, it can diminish self-esteem, evolve to generalized anxiety, cause panic attacks and become math phobia.
Math phobia is an extreme or irrational fear of, or aversion to math. Unfortunately, math phobia is the world’s most common phobia. It’s more prevalent than all of these, combined:
Arachnophobia – fear of spiders,
Claustrophobia – fear of confined spaces,
Agoraphobia – fear of open spaces and public places and
Social phobia – fear of social situations.
Symptoms of math anxiety often have psychological and physical components, which are Not fun:
Feeling embarrassed, tense, nervous, hopeless, unable to relax, worrying about the past, future, what people will think, feeling loss of control, tearful, not sleeping, unsteadiness, dizziness, blushing, sweating, nausea, lightheadedness, increased heart rate, palpitations, shortness of breath, trembling, shaking, etc.
Each of these interferes with the individual’s ability to learn, and many anxious math students exhibit many symptoms. Some students feel so overwhelmed they give up. In some form they may say “I’m no good at math”.
Teachers and parents should look for students, who often avoid doing math; or who often exhibit emotional distress when faced with the prospect of doing math.
Surveys indicate that over 2 billion people worldwide believe they are “no good at math”.
Fortunately, math anxiety can be moderated and alleviated by using multi-sensory experiences to increase understanding, motivation and abilities to learn math without stress.
When math is physical and understood, math anxiety can disappear.
Helping students think creatively and logically to understand and interpret information physically, imaginatively, symbolically and emotionally to solve problems reduces anxiety, and in a larger sense is the essence of education.
All students are required to take math. Globally, over 1 billion students are trying to learn math.
Wiz-Math can help because it is physical, creative and logical.
Change takes Time
Society demands a math education reform due to low math proficiency scores. However, it is normally hard to make those changes happen quickly. Current teachers must change their methodologies. This requires training and buy-in from the educational community. Publishers must create new textbooks and software that focus on the new ideas. Teacher colleges must train future educators to implement the reformed ideas.