Thought You Have Overcome The Monster Under Your Bed?

Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

I was six when I had my first encounter with the monster. They say that children are the most vulnerable. It is because they think that no one will believe them. And it is true. The same happened to me.

I told my mother and she said there are no monsters.

I told my father and he said that you’re making excuses.

The funniest reply was from my teacher, which was the scariest back then.

She said you should face it. So, I stopped looking for help and lived with the monster under my bed for nine long years. I wish someone had heard me back then. I wouldn’t have lost nine beautiful years of my childhood. I wish my parents would have listened to me or my teachers would have helped me.

I wish I wouldn’t have to fight alone the giant monster under my bed- MATH.

Moving on to another story, a parent once expressed concern over his five-year-old daughter, also my student, complaining of mental stress. Being new in the job as a Math teacher, I couldn’t understand how can such a young child suffer from mental stress. I did understand it better when I linked my past with hers. MATH ANXIETY!

We both suffered from it. Not just us, there are thousands of people around us who have been or are still scared of Math. Approximately 93% of adult US-Americans have experienced some level of math anxiety or fear.

Cuemath, an after-school live-class program in Math, surveyed 1,600 students all over India in June 2021. It was found out that 82 percent of the students surveyed across Classes 7–10 are fearful of Maths. Only two in 10 students were confident about their abilities.

It is an alarming figure, isn’t it?

So, What Is Math Anxiety?

Hunt, Glen E has described Math Anxiety as the panic, helplessness, paralyses, and mental disorganization, that arises among some people when they are required to solve a mathematical problem.

Math Anxiety starts to hit children as early as the elementary grade.

In simple words, Math Anxiety is the nervous feeling and discomfort while doing basic mathematical calculations. It considerably lowers Math achievement.

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It affects students and many adults too. My best friend used to be so scared of Math that she would get a high fever before any Math exam. I called it ‘Math Fever’. She still hasn’t got over it. She still avoids calculation whenever we go shopping. Her fear is so grave that she doesn’t like to do or talk of investing in Fixed Deposits, Mutual Funds, or other investments. Can you realize to what extent Math Anxiety affects a person’s day-to-day work?

How Does It Hit?

Well, you can only explain something properly by personally experiencing it. Math Anxiety does not only hit you while doing the sums or during the learning process. It is like a Domino Effect.

For instance, you are learning division, but you don’t know the tables. You tried to memorize them, however, your retention power is low. So, you’re not able to understand division. Your teacher finds it out and scolds you. You feel insulted in front of your peers. It hits your self-esteem and confidence. The next time your teacher asks you a question, you don’t answer it, fearing you will be wrong. You don’t even try solving the sum because you’re scared of another reprimand. She stops asking you questions because you don’t answer. You lose healthy communication and interaction with your teachers and peers. You accept that Math isn’t your cup of tea. It gives you sleepless nights. You are not able to practice sums. Lesser practice results in lower grades and that, in turn, results in more insult and mental torture. Your teacher scolds you in every possible situation, in the classroom, in the corridor, in the staff room, in Parent-Teacher Interactions and you start hating her. Yes, you start hating her and the subject.

And Math becomes the scariest giant monster under your bed.

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If that sounds traumatic to you, then this is the story of my life. Imagine if I still feel the pangs of it as an adult, then what happens to the mind of a small child?

Children are so naïve. They will become what you expect them to be, they will see what you show them, they will hear what you tell them and they will fear what you magnify in front of them.

Photo by Ricky Turner on Unsplash

Why Do We Need To Talk About It?

In my opinion, every educator and parent must discuss Math Anxiety. Our children cannot prosper socially and emotionally if they continue to be scared of Math. As a Math teacher and a survivor of Math Anxiety myself, I take pride in the fact that NONE of my little wonders faced this problem.

Let me share a few of my strategies that even you can follow in your classroom: -

Image Credits- Pinterest

1. I never forced them

Children do not like it when you enforce something upon them. They act on their own free will. If a child didn’t feel like practicing further, I would give him or her the choice to take a break. Singing and dancing was a usual scenario in my classroom.

2. Sharing my story

Children are fascinated with stories. I was quite frank with them. I remember telling them about my own Math Monster and the way their face lightened up. Their eyes could tell that they could resonate with my story. Kids have to be told the truth if we expect the same from them.

3. One plus one may not be two

I never asked my students to follow a particular method to solve a sum. Children should be given the freedom to choose their own methodology.

4. Accept both sides of the coin

Unlearning is difficult than learning.

I once taught two-dimensional shapes to my children. I thought they were too young to understand three-dimensional shapes, so I skipped that. I was discussing examples of circular-shaped objects when my student answered- ‘Sun’. I was in a dilemma back then. If I say YES, then he would have problems later on in learning that Sun is spherical. If I said NO, then three-dimensional shapes were a whole new topic to discuss. As an educator or parent, there will be many such instances in your life. Create scenarios of YES-NO in front of them. Teach them to accept both sides of the coin.

What can we do?

Identify the monster under their bed.

Observation is the best way to find out if your student or child is facing Math Anxiety or stress. Lower grades and disinterest in learning are clear signs of trouble. If the child is not showing a willingness to go to Math Class or is complaining about the Math teacher then he or she may be a victim of Math Anxiety.

There are many innovative ideas available around us. Listen to interesting educational podcasts to get some unique ideas. You can find ideas by listening to the ‘The Staffroom Podcast with Chey & Pav, by two experienced middle school teachers from Canada.

You can also read my blog and learn and teach me a thing or two!

Takeaway:-

Math Anxiety is a critical problem in the classroom. Fear of Math hampers a child’s social and emotional growth. At the same time, Math as a subject is instrumental in developing Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Decision-Making skills in a child. Educators need to come out with creative and innovative teaching strategies to help their students overcome their fear of Math. A child with Math Anxiety cannot bloom in the socially and emotionally prospering classrooms we have envisioned for our learners. This Math Monster has to be acknowledged, dragged out, and dealt with.

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Educator and Education Enthusiast turned into an Education TechSpert and content writer.

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Manika Pant

Manika Pant

Educator and Education Enthusiast turned into an Education TechSpert and content writer.

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