Tips to Overcome Math Anxiety
Since the day I started to learn multiplication in grade school, I started to struggle. By the time I was in high school pre-algebra my discomfort with math had turned into anxiety and a literal hatred. It began with timed multiplication tests in fourth grade. I wasn't able to complete a single one until the end of the year and that was with a lot of help from a very good learning disabilities instructor who work tirelessly with me until I got it right. I felt a little more confident in my abilities until sixth grade when my concentration turned to not being beat up on a daily basis. I received poor scores in almost everything that year and didn't bounce back until eighth grade, where I had wonderful teachers in every subject including math. Halfway through the year however, my math teacher's behavior began to change. Nothing he said made any sense to myself and a vast majority of my classmates. Even my own mother wanted to see what was up and sat through a couple of my math classes. Afterward she shook her head and said, "I don't know what he was teaching, but it wasn't math." In ninth grade I similar problems understanding the teacher but I passed the class and moved on to Algebra I. The teacher moved way too fast and my C- in Pre Algebra did me little good in understanding the material. I flunked but was still able to graduate high school thanks to my learning disability. When I went to sign up for college I was told there would be a math placement test which made me nervous so I didn't try again until I was twenty-five. The same time I started seeing a psychologist who helped me overcome my fear of many things, math among them. I was so afraid of math that I didn't even like using a pencil because I associated them with the subject. She tutored me 15-20 hours a week, free of charge, and I was able to not only pass but receive my first ever A in a math course... a college level math course! Now I still need a few more math classes in order to complete my degree but I know I can do it thanks to my psychologist/math tutor and hard work and dedication.
- Always ask questions if you don't understand something in class. If speaking in front of the class makes you nervous, write down your questions and ask the teacher at the end of class.
- Take advantage of free tutoring. Most colleges and some high school and elementary schools have tutoring programs. If one tutor doesn't explain things in a way you understand, try a different one until you find one that matches your learning style.
- Take good notes. If you're a slow writer, try using an audio recorder and play it back later, pausing so you can write things down.
- Purchase the right calculator and know how to use it. Scientific calculators can be excellent tools as long as you know how they work. For help, read the instructions that come with the calculator, ask your teacher or tutor for help, or use an online video or forum.
- Use memory tricks. Acronyms, songs, poems, anything that will help you remember the rules (The way I learned my multiplication tables in fourth grade was by putting each table to a different nursery rhyme).
- Make sure and be well-rested, have a good breakfast and relax and do your best on test day. Stress will only hurt your score.
- Never give up. If you had told my thirteen-year-old self that I would later in life make the dean's list thanks in part to a math class, I would have said you were crazy, but with hard work and the right tools you can achieve anything!
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