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(RESEARCH) MATHEMATICS Anxiety

Hi to everyone out there, I'm currently writing an essay regarding the teaching of mathematics and because it's a personal essay we can draw on our own experiences or the experiences of others. So, I know that I have maths anxiety, I always felt like I was naturally drawn to English based subjects (reading, writing, spelling, history, etc) because I just didn't have a 'Maths Brain' but from what I've been reading, my negative outlook on maths may have been significantly altered had my learning experiences as a child been different. In other words, the way in which maths was taught when I was at school resulted in an anxiety toward the subject itself. So I was just wondering for all those people who claim they hate maths or feel like they just don't have a maths brain like me.... 1. Do you think something could have been done differently when you were at school which would have drastically reduced your dislike for mathematics? 2. Do you think if your teachers had a positive outlook on mathematics and used "real world" scenario's, you would have been able to process the information more effectively? 3. In general, what are your feelings toward maths? and just so you don't feel left out, For all the people who LOVE maths and LOVED it in school.. 1. Where do you feel this positive approach to mathematics comes from? 2. Do you remember a teacher who did an amazing job teaching mathematics and if so what did they do which makes them stand out? and heck...if there are any parents out there who are struggling with helping their kids out with their maths homework feel free to voice some of your opinions, has maths 'changed' since you were learning and what are some of the difficulties your experiencing in helping out with homework (if any)? |

1. Do you think something could have been done differently when you were at school which would have drastically reduced your dislike for mathematics?I remember the exact moment I stopped liking math and completely tuned it out. I was in third grade and our teacher was teaching us how to multiply two digit numbers (20x20 for instance) the long way. It was like a switch. I had absolutely NO desire to learn how to do that, it frustrated me and I hated it. I didn't learn how to multiply like that until I was in college, literally. I learned how two years ago in my no-credit math class that I was required to take because I was so far behind in math. Obviously I was capable of using a calculator, or drawing out little sticks, or something, but as for actually knowing how to just multiply? No idea. My school system was so terrible in the math department. Everyone who graduates from my district is so drastically behind in math it isn't even funny. I was able to GRADUATE HIGH SCHOOL not knowing how to multiply. Just goes to show you, not a single teacher (or my parents) after grade three noticed I couldn't do it. 2. Do you think if your teachers had a positive outlook on mathematics and used "real world" scenario's, you would have been able to process the information more effectively?Hell no. They tried that in my college, and it was still ass-numbingly dull. 3. In general, what are your feelings toward maths? I'm still not a math person. I'm proud of myself when I understand things, but the overall frustration I feel when attempting to learn new math is not worth it, to me. I know if I'd been more exposed to math (as my dad was) then I would probably like it. I hated science all throughout school, and now that I'm taking it in college I rather like it. |

1. Do you think something could have been done differently when you were at school which would have drastically reduced your dislike for mathematics? I actually liked maths up until 5th grade. That's when we started learning geometry and doing word problems. I HATED word problems and still do. And geometry just really annoys me - I hate shapes and angles and all that. I'm not sure if anything could have been done differently. I failed Algebra II and Algebra III in 11th and 12th grades and had to take those classes again. I noticed that when I took the classes again, it was definitely easier, so maybe just more practice on each topic? I think the teachers have to teach things so quickly that some students just get so left behind and then by that time, they give up because once you can't understand one thing, it usually is connected to the next subject that they move on to, so you're pretty much screwed. 2. Do you think if your teachers had a positive outlook on mathematics and used "real world" scenario's, you would have been able to process the information more effectively? My teachers had a positive outlook....and some used real world scenarios, but that didn't really help. I remember we went outside to do a game for remembering names of angles and such in 10th grade Geometry...but I still didn't really grasp the concept. 3. In general, what are your feelings toward maths? I don't mind regular maths stuff and I enjoy some Algebra....but I still hate word problems and Geometry. Lol. I'm a bit more positive about it now though, because I know that most of it *is* important, and being an SSO (teacher's assistant), I have to have a good attitude so that the kids can feel encouraged and positive about their efforts. The only thing that bugs me, now, is that they change how they've done certain math steps since I was in primary school! Lol. So it's almost like learning it all over. ;) I hope this helps you! |

I'm one of those weirdos who loves maths xD So: 1. Where do you feel this positive approach to mathematics comes from? I have no idea. I've just always been naturally drawn to numbers and patterns as a child. And I guess it was encouraged by my parents and teachers. But I don't feel that my love for maths 'came' from anywhere... it's been in me all along! 2. Do you remember a teacher who did an amazing job teaching mathematics and if so what did they do which makes them stand out? Not so much during primary school. But during my first and last two years of high school I had a great teacher who was incredible... she just explained things so clearly, there was no mystery or anything, it all just made sense. |

1. Where do you feel this positive approach to mathematics comes from? I really don't know. I just always thought of it as a fun puzzle to try to figure out. I enjoyed throughout school, although I was a bit behind, not because I wasn't good in math, but because of my lack of effort combined with a lack of parental encouragement. I had one teacher call my mom in for a meeting and asked her to work with me with flashcards so I could learn my multiplication facts, but she never did. So not knowing those facts by rote slowed me way down, but I still always enjoyed it and understood it easily. I just didn't get to a very high level in school. 2. Do you remember a teacher who did an amazing job teaching mathematics and if so what did they do which makes them stand out? One teacher in high school comes to mind. She pulled me aside and told me I did not belong in her class; I was placed in a remedial math class because I stopped turning in homework in junior high. She suggested a summer school class to move me ahead to where I should have been. No teaching methods come to mind; I rarely paid attention in class anyway. I just read the text book to find out how to do the problems, and completed the work quickly during class. I hated when they brought story problems into it. That was just annoying and boring. |

I love maths. Most of the time I hated it at school though, because the vast majority of teachers explained it in a way that was very different from how my brain works. Also, I would often know the answer automatically in my head, but had no way of explaining how I got it, so the teachers would just mark it wrong, because I hadn't shown the working. it was very frustrating. But I would constantly borrow books from the library that were full of 'fun maths' - mathematical brainteasers and puzzles, which kept me occupied for hours. I loved maths in that kind of context - I didn't even realise it was maths. And from age 13 to 15, I finally had a maths teacher who made sense. She wasn't fun or even friendly, but she explained maths in exactly the way that my mind understood it. I then realised there were different ways of working out maths, and so I worked on discovering my own ways of understanding and solving what we were taught, rather than attempt to follow the methods I'd been taught. When I learnt to discover maths for myself, then I loved it. I needed the freedom to explore it for myself, using my own methods. As for real life applications, for me that would have made no difference. I liked pure maths the best - I enjoyed it as puzzles to be solved. I had no interest in real life applications. |

Thank you to everyone who contributed. It is really interesting to see the varying perspectives and I know from talking with some of the other students in my class, there is a huge variety of responses when posed with similar questions. I personally feel like I don't have a maths brain, I never really clicked with maths and I'm more inclined to follow "english/arts" based subjects like history, social sciences and the more creative paths; but after reading more into the issues around mathematics and spending a lot of time on this essay I realize that SOME (not all) of my anxiety is in a large part due to the lack of adequate teaching. My teachers were rather lazy now that I've had to be critically reflective of my past experiences in school; so now I realize just how bad they really were! The blame isn't entirely on them however, I really do believe that some children (and adults) are just more inclined to be scientific/mathematical thinkers and others go down the more creative path; that isn't to say people can't be a bit of both...but for me I'm definitely one of the more creative thinkers. |

I have more of an arts brain. When I was at school, teens were encouraged to follow either a science or an arts path, and I was seen as a bit of an anomaly because I wanted to do both English and Maths when we got to the point where we had to specialise. But they were my two best subjects. However, my way of understanding maths is much more of an artistic way, which is why I found so many teachers' explanations to be incomprehensible. I would visualise everything - I would draw out mathematical problems in order to understand them. As an adult, I did maths tutoring for a few years, as a way to earn extra money, and I would tutor a lot of teens who were struggling with maths because they were more artistic, and maths had been explained to them in more of a scientific way. I explained Maths to them in the way that I had learnt to understand it - using artistic skills - and they were able to understand it that way. I actually don't see maths as pure science - I think it's also a very artistic subject, and if you read the biographies of famous mathematicians, they tended to be incredibly creative. But from the way maths is often taught in schools, you wouldn't realise that! |

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