Wednesday, November 2

Widespread panic: Why math anxiety continues to multiply - Schools


Dear Son

Here's an interesting article on why math anxiety keeps on happening. I know you also said that you aren't that interested in Mathematics. I was like you, didn't really like mathematics so much till I started doing applied mathematics. In fact, Neela Didi tried to beat mathematics into my head when I was younger than you in the famous Jabalpur Sahakar Nagar house but she failed, lol, nothing to do with her, it was me who was the dunderhead. I used to be religiously carted over to Jabalpur every summer to learn Mathematics and I ended up learning more about Readers Digest, Fiction, dictionary, use of english and other bits that my Jethamoshai taught me. And how to ride a bike, climb mountains, kiss girls and and and, everything other than mathematics.

At this moment, what you are learning are the techniques and methodologies, the calculus, algebra, geometry and trigonometry. But once you get into the applied side, that's when the fun starts, when you have to apply numbers to figure out how much you have earned or the height of a potential tower to support a space elevator or see if you can calculate from first principles on when the next eclipse will happen or how fast does a potential influenza infection spread etc. etc.

For some reason, people get upset with numbers, much more than with prose. But there's your advantage son, people who like mathematics actually end up ruling over people who dont. Seriously. Take finance or economics or what have you. When you know the numbers, your arguments are better. You are able to make better judgements. The vast majority of people will basically duck out of these discussions and debates. So you, being a smart boy, will be able to explain and discuss how the numbers work.

I am proud of you for going for maths and further maths and economics, good solid subjects and they will stand you in good stead in your future. But dont give up hope, mathematics is fun and its beautiful. I had this quote written on top of my desk when I was your age. “Mathematics, rightly viewed, posses not only truth, but supreme beauty; a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture” by Bertrand Russell quotes. It is a beautiful thing, theorems and applications, its a demanding area, it demands dedication and love, it requires passion and intelligence. it requires hard work but it gives back hugely. Unfortunately, its not easy to communicate this beauty, you have to learn to appreciate it. You might want to see the A Beautiful Mind, its an extraordinary combination of mathematics, economics and how to pick up girls. And of course, the famous Good Will Hunting is a good movie as well. Incidentally, son, if you know mathematics and are known as a mathematician, and if you are cool (like you are), girls seem to like it :)

So when your friends moan about mathematics, just smile at them and think back on the quote, too bad they will never appreciate the beauty of mathematics.

Widespread panic: Why math anxiety continues to multiply - Schools -

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Widespread panic: Why math anxiety continues to multiply

Tips for fighting math anxiety

• Bring math into everyday life. Have your kids figure out math problems while cooking, for instance.

• Encourage your child to speak up and ask questions if he or she doesn’t understand math principles.

• Have discussions about math. Don’t focus on “the answer;” discuss concepts as you would a good book.

• Hold your tongue when it comes to “negative” math talk. Kids will pick up on your own anxiety.

• Advise children to first find a problem they know they can solve to gain confidence, then go back to the others.

• Don’t let your kids save math homework as the last thing they do. Do it first before fatigue sets in.

• Remember: Math is not an aptitude you’re born with; it’s an acquired skill.

By Vanessa Garcia
Special to The Miami Herald

One look at math word problems and many students cringe.

Even worse, many elementary school teachers seem to have the same reaction.

Math anxiety, a fear that first gained recognition as a feminist issue in the 1970s, remains a big problem that psychologists, educators, and parents are trying to crack.

A negative emotional reaction to math or even the prospect of solving a problem that has to do with mathematics, math anxiety is now the topic of many books, research papers and seminars.

Sheila Tobias, author of Overcoming Math Anxiety (W.W. Norton & Co., $16.95), started studying the phenomenon three decades ago when she noticed girls were doing poorly in math in school and not seeking out math-influenced careers, such as engineering. She now notes a tremendous modern shift in more girls pursuing math-related fields, although females as a group still report more math anxiety than males.

Some studies show that the one of the causes may be teachers themselves.

Last year, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published an article called “Female teachers’ math anxiety affects girls’ math achievement,” co-written by Sian Beilock, a University of Chicago associate professor of psychology. The paper cited research that shows female math teachers carry a good deal of math anxiety into their classrooms, affecting the behavior of their female students.

“Children are more likely to emulate the behavior and attitudes of the same gender vs. opposite-gender adults,” Beilock wrote.

And because most elementary teachers in the United States are women (more than 90 percent), girls are more likely than boys to be influenced by this problem.

Some experts suggest that one solution is to raise the bar on minimal mathematics requirements for elementary school teachers.

Teachers have to deal with their own anxiety first, agreed Walter Secada, a professor and senior associate dean at the University of Miami’s School of Education and a former math professor.

“Before you drill, make sure you know the skill,” Secada said.

The stakes are much higher than a failing grade on a report card, and the problem isn’t entirely associated with gender.

“Educators who fail to recognize the signs of math anxiety [hinder] further development,” said Carol Warner, an associate professor of mathematics and academic coordinator of math for Barry University’s School of Adult and Continuing Education. “The U.S. economy depends on students with a strong mathematical background. If the great technical advances in energy, the environment, medicine, and information are elsewhere, so will be the jobs in the future.”

Beilock, the Chicago researcher, agrees the problem is not just limited to women, and that there’s a need for more studies on math anxiety within other communities, such as blacks and new immigrants.

Tobias, the author, points to studies on math anxiety among minorities by such researchers as the University of Texas’ Philip Uri Treisman.

“What we learn from those studies,” she said, “is that Asian Americans do better not because they are better at math, but because they create study groups or study gangs, whereas an African American student is more likely to deal with and struggle through problems alone.”

While such support systems help, the real solution is prevention, Tobias said.

“Don’t make kids anxious to begin with,” Secada at UM agreed.

That’s often a struggle with today’s test-centric teaching. The emphasis on standardized testing “reduces innovative instruction by forcing teachers to ‘teach to the test,’ ” Barry’s Warner said. “Students feel the anxiety introduced into the classroom surrounding these tests, which often perpetuates a further downward spiral for those who are already math anxious.”

Beilock suggests having students write for 10 minutes about their anxiety before a high-stakes test. Writing about what worries you can help curb negative thoughts and free-up your thinking to do what it needs to do, she said.

UM’s Secada advises going back to the basics.

“Even if you think you’re too old for them, try to ‘understand’ concepts behind math first and foremost,” he said.

1 comment:

IMPETUS said...

Great blog sir, i think mathematics is a solution and not a problem, it solves natural queries, i like your point of view, mathematics rules over universe and hence over humans as well.