By : Siti Nur Azila Bt Shafie D20081033181
What is mathematics anxiety?
Mathematics anxiety is a feeling or anxiety about one’s ability to do mathematics independent of skill. Mathematics anxiety also been defined as feelings of tension and anxiety that interfere with the manipulation of numbers and the solving of mathematical problems in a wide variety of ordinary life and academic situation.
It could makes students mind goes blank just by seeing numbers or when they were asked to do simple calculation. Symptoms of mathematical anxiety are such as sweating palms, queasy stomach, panic fear, shame, inability to cope and much more.
Why does it happen?
Mathematics anxiety starts with teacher themselves. Briggs and Crook said that primary school teachers are often found to suffer most acutely from mathematics anxiety. This happens when they lack of basic foundation of mathematics. Teacher trainees also have symptoms of mathematics anxiety.
Teachers who love mathematics will have no problem with the subject but when they lack of interest, hates or even fear of mathematics, those traits will influence students negatively.
From the research conducted by Marzita Puteh, there are several causes of mathematics anxiety. First it is related to teacher personality and their style of teaching. Besides that public examination and their effects also lead to mathematics anxiety. Students also were burden by parent’s expectation and standards they must excel in mathematics if they want to success. It is also related to affective domain or the self factor such as student’s perception of mathematics. Bad experiences lead to bad perception towards mathematics. Feelings and worries also lead to mathematics anxiety since students will have difficulties with their memory and innate disability.
Who has it?
Usually students will have mathematics anxiety and it can be caused from their teacher. So we can say that students and teachers can have mathematical anxiety. Actually in my opinion, anyone can develop those symptoms of mathematics anxiety. These symptom can be developed when a person start attending school and faces difficulties with mathematics. There are several reasons that can cause difficulties with mathematics and those reasons will be discussed in other question. If the person didn’t try to overcome their anxiety, they will still face it until they are older.
When does it occur?
It usually occurred when students have difficulties with mathematics. When they were asks to do, simple mathematics calculation, those with mathematics anxiety will start having symptoms like queasy stomach or sweating palm. They are not confident that they will be able to perform the calculation. They also fears of numbers. When they saw a mathematics question with a lot of number or a bigger figure numbers they start to fears of it. They will have problems to solve it.
What created it?
There are several factors that develop mathematical anxiety. First, it is related to teacher personality and their style of teaching. Each student has their own style and pace when they study. Some can understand the lesson way faster than others but some need explanation few more times before they can fully grasp a new concept. The classroom’s environment here in Malaysia always neglects that factor. Teacher usually speeds up the lesson pace because they want to finish up the syllabus before the year end. Students who have problems don’t have the opportunity to ask teacher to clear their misunderstanding during the class or after the class. So, those who has problem will always perceive mathematics as a difficult subject.
This might be unintentional but teacher does seem play a very large role in this problem. Students are just a young teenager who usually hates being humiliated in front of their friends. However, teacher always indirectly cause it to them. A classic example is by asking them solving mathematics problem in front of the class at the blackboard. Students who are weak in mathematics usually hate this the most. They are not confident that they can solve it correctly and if they are indeed wrong the whole class might laugh at them. All this will lead to mathematics anxiety.
Other than teacher, factors like family and peer group also can influence and caused mathematics anxiety. In parents cases, they either can help students to excel in mathematics by helping and encourage them with positive words or they can create mathematics anxiety in students by pressure them to excel in mathematics without trying to actually help them when they face problems with it. Parents who don’t care about their children poor achievement in mathematics also won’t help them overcome their problem and leads to mathematics anxiety in their child self.
Aiken (1970) said that one possible determiner of attitude towards mathematics is the attitude of one’s peer. Students are easily influenced by others especially by peers. If their peers are not bothering of making effort with mathematics, they will also do the same. When do a group discussion, if there are none of the members who have higher mathematical abilities than others, the group will have problems with solving the questions discussed.
Besides that, since our education system is exam oriented system, students feel great pressure to excel in mathematics since they felt like their future
How do you reduce it?
In my opinion, teacher plays a very large role to reduce mathematics anxiety among students. Since teacher is one of the major factors that caused it, so teacher also should start playing their role rightly. Maybe teacher should start change their way of teachings. Since everyone doesn’t have the same mathematical abilities, teacher should analyze the best way to teach students so that all get the same knowledge without anyone left behind during lessons.
Besides that, teacher should starts identifies those with mathematical anxiety and try to help them to overcome it. Students need encouragement from others to overcome this problem. As a teacher, we should help them to overcome this so that they won’t be affected in a very bad way. Teacher should find a new way to involve weak students in the class activities other than calling them in front solving problems at the blackboard. Maybe teacher should create more cooperative group learning during lesson so that other students can also helps those with mathematics anxiety.
Parents role are different from teacher in this matter. Teacher can only encourage them at school but parents spent almost every day with their child. Positive encouragement needed so that they know that their parents will always support them in their learning process. Parents should know their child achievement at school so that they can monitor if their child have mathematics anxiety. Since not all parents have higher education level, some of them must not realize that mathematics anxiety is one serious problem. So, school or any NGO should start held a campaign to expose them about this problem and show them how they can help their children.
How do you eliminate it?
It’s hard to actually eliminate mathematics anxiety effectively especially in our society. Since it’s like a stereotype the thinking of mathematics are not easy, mathematics are boring, mathematics are just boring calculation and mathematics don’t bring any benefit in our daily life. This type of stereotype must be vanished first if we really want to eliminate it. This way of thinking must be change into more positive thinking first like mathematics is fun, mathematics are easy, and it’s helpful in our daily life. When students realize all this, they will start overcome their hatred towards mathematics, thus they won’t have mathematics anxiety. So teacher should start thinking ways to change students’ negativity toward mathematics so that we can eliminate mathematics anxiety among students.