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Overcoming ‘Math Anxiety’
A lack of understanding in the formative years of a child has the potential to lead to lifelong math anxiety
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Mathematics is a fundamentally logical and beautiful subject, but one that universally invokes a sense of anxiety and fear in students and adults. However, mathematics is in everything around us and it is more than just a subject, it is an essential life skill.
- A lack of understanding in the formative years of a child has the potential to lead to lifelong math anxiety. People often think of this as a problem in middle and high-school students. But by age 12, kids already have had many opportunities for bad experiences with math.One of the biggest factors that contributes to this lack of understanding is the decade-old education system followed by parents and teachers. In addition to this, parents and teachers also create benchmarks of the child’s mental capabilities in order to get them future ready. More often than not, this leads to the child facing difficulties in coping with the syllabus and the complexity of the subject only increase. While both parents and teachers have the child’s best interest at heart, it is time there is a complete transformation in the way a child is taught today. Here are 5 concepts that I believe should be practiced mandatorily across all education spheres.
1. Understand that every child is special. Have faith in the intellectual potential of every child. Different students may require different kinds or degrees of inputs and efforts, and they may progress at faster or slower rates compared to others. Regardless of this, have the conviction that every child can excel!
2. Avoid labelling children. Classifying a child as strong/weak or fast/slow is detrimental to the child’s overall growth. Have a “growth mindset” - believe that talent can be developed through hard work, better learning strategies and good inputs from others. Inculcate this growth mindset within your students as well.
3. Attack the “fixed mindset” wherever you see it. For example, if a parent says that her daughter is “weak at math”, your response should be to advise the parent to avoid such labels and classifications and have faith in the fact that her daughter’s potential can be developed with the right efforts. In this context, I highly recommend the book “Mindset” by Carol Dweck - it will benefit you immensely in your role as a math educator and show you the transformation a growth mindset can bring about.
4. Take ownership of the intellectual development of your students. Be invested personally, even more than their parents! Do your best to push them beyond their present limits. This way, you are impacting the future more powerfully than you can imagine.
5. Invest in your own upskilling. When I started out as a teacher, I would continuously work on my math proficiency as well as my teaching skills. I would try and understand strategies to teach concepts that were particularly difficult for students. This effort paid off in the long run, and helped me become a better teacher. For you, I would recommend spending, to begin with, an hour a week on such initiatives. We are also creating some course material that will be useful for CTPs in this context.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.