Math-the most dreaded and feared subject in a student’s life. It is also a subject which students give up upon too soon thinking that they will not be able to master it. This avoidance leads to less competency, less practice and then to anxiety and phobia due unpreparedness. A child with Math phobia does not necessarily mean that he lacks the ability to comprehend the subject.

Generally it is seen that parents with high expectations unknowingly convey the idea to children that math is a difficult and anxiety provoking subject. Teachers who had themselves suffered from math phobia usually teach exclusively from the textbook and rely on memorization of facts, drills and practice to reinforce the lesson. It is thought of as a either right or wrong subject. Teachers want fixed answers which leads to rote learning. To add on, performance pressure in exams and public embarrassment otherwise also creates a lot of tension in students. 

It is important that teachers, parents and students work together to eliminate math phobia. Whether you are an offline or online math tutor, It is crucial that you have a positive and enthusiastic attitude towards Math. It should not be portrayed as an unlearnable and difficult subject. Math is like learning any other subject.  The basic concepts of Math never change but the way it is approached to solve the problem has a lot of variability. Tests should not be considered as the last goal.  They will be more motivated when applying it in everyday life like estimating prices while shopping, applying fractions while cooking, decimals in money transactions etc. You could guide the students in how to make notes for themselves. 

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) has suggested that teachers should try various testing methodologies and refrain from connecting self-esteem with success in math. Importance should be given to original, quality thinking and not rote learning. Teach them through exploration, conjecturing, thinking and being an active learner. 

The first and foremost thing a student needs to do is identify the symptoms of math phobia. Panic, passive behaviour, paranoia and lack of confidence are the four main symptoms. Ask questions when you do not understand. Math concepts build upon each other so it is important that you do not get lost in the beginning itself.  Cramming will never be of much help in math. You need to understand what the formula means and how and where it has to be used. Set aside some time everyday to practice problem solving. Systematic revision method of study, peer learning or making a study group can also prove to be helpful. 

Parents’ involvement and importance in a student’s learning process cannot be underestimated. Your own perception about maths will invariably influence your child’s attitude towards it. Look out for tell tale behaviour issues when they are asked to do math. Positive reinforcement of the skills they have mastered and correct attitude towards what still needs to be worked upon will help overcome math phobia. Give them a free hand to decide how they want to study. Some may want to play their favourite music or sit on the ground rather than on a desk. Break the problem solving exercise into smaller achievable tasks. Try to find out how the subject is being taught in class. Be in regular contact with the teachers and discuss how you can work together for the betterment of the child. Do not encourage the tendency to complain about math at home. Instead make them realize that math is not a competition and everyone learns differently at their own pace. Never give them the impression that they are being compared with their own classmates. 

A patient, positive and supportive attitude towards students will definitely help overcome math phobia and more importantly there is a bright future awaiting them without math too. 


Source: The Times of India