Your alarm sounds, and you immediately jump out of the bed feeling fresh and re-energized for the day. But as you slowly begin to think through the day, a familiar feeling of fear and dread suddenly strikes you. It is the day you are going to sit for your math paper. Even though you studied for hours and revised well, doubt continues to get the better of you as you wonder whether you are ready for the test. This feeling is known as math anxiety.
What is Math Anxiety?
Math anxiety is the feeling of panic, mental disorientation, helplessness and paralysis that creeps up when you are about to solve a math problem. Math anxiety affects your academic performance and is likely to extend beyond the classroom if not handled on time.
Managing Math Anxiety
Overcome Negative Self-Talk
Engaging in self-talk is reasonable. However, most self-talks are skewed towards the negative. If you are about to solve a math problem, the last thing you want to do is to engage in negative self-talk. Saying things like “I will fail this test for sure” or “I didn’t prepare well” will only worsen your anxiety. Instead, say positive things like “I have prepared well and will ace the test” or “The test will be very simple.”
Know That You are Not Alone
Even if you think the math problem is going to be difficult, you can calm yourself down by knowing that you are not alone. Many people dislike mathematics and are nervous just like you. Even talented mathematicians are sometimes unsure about themselves when handling math problems. Take a deep breath and give it your best.
If you often have doubts before a math test or lesson, then you need to solve math questions at least once every day. Nobody achieves perfection and confidence instantly. Not even the greatest pianists like Wolfgang Mozart and Glenn Gould learned to play immediately. Do math every day, even if it is only for a short time.
Many of us try to study by cramming formulas and equations. While this is important, you need to actually use the formulas and equations so that they can stick in your mind permanently. Start studying early, and ask your teacher for assistance if you run into problems. Join a study group or look for a study partner for extra support. Go to a math learning center like Mathnasium where the experienced staff will help you learn and boost your confidence.
Do Your Homework
Most students don’t like homework, particularly if it involves math. Because of the sheer dislike, we fail to do our homework on time and only wait until the deadline is near. Doing homework in the last minutes raises your adrenaline levels which then leads to anxiety. Do your homework before the deadline, and ask your teacher if you have difficulties understanding a particular problem.
Use Different Resources
Using only one resource for your math limits exposure to new challenges. It also limits you from clarifying any math confusions you may have. Use other resources to gain new techniques and solve new problems. These could include math texts, journals, flashcards, YouTube or online tutorials. More exposure means more knowledge and more confidence.
Ask Questions in Class
Some of us do not ask questions in class for the fear of looking stupid. Asking questions is not a sign of stupidity but a sign of strength, courage and willingness to learn. You will find your fellow students are glad you asked the question in the first place. However, make sure you ask questions that are relevant and can help you build on your math skills.
If you have math anxiety, you need to admit it. Don’t pretend not to have it. Doing so will prevent you from taking the necessary steps to manage and overcome it.