Mathematics Education Forum November 2011, Vol. II, Issue 30.

Year 15, pp 33-35

Mathematics Anxiety and Its Effects Dr Indra Kumari Bajracharya

Introduction Math anxiety is a feeling of intense frustration about one's ability to perform various mathematical activities. In other words, students are feeling 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 (Richardson & Suinn, 1972, p. 551). According to Cemen (1987) math-anxiety can be described as a state of anxiety, which occurs in response to situations involving mathematics which are perceived as threatening to self-esteem (Trujillo, Hadfield & Oakley, 1999). A definition by Smith and Smith (1998) state that math-anxiety is a feeling of intense frustration or helplessness about one’s ability to do mathematics, and can be described as a learned emotional response to participating in a mathematics class, listening to a lecture, working through problems, and/or discussing mathematics to name but a few examples (Hembree, 1990). If it is once established in our life, it would interfere with everyday activities and further learning of mathematics. It can occur at all levels of education from primary school to higher education. It comes from environmental factors such as myths, teachers, and parents. Students' negative math experience also influences math anxity. This occurs when students are punished by their parent or teacher for failing to master a mathematical concept or embarrassed in front of a sibling or group of peers when failing to correctly complete a mathematical problem. Similarly the students’ math anxiety can trigger teacher anxiety, societal, educational or

Associate Professor of Mahendra Ratan Campus, Tahachal, Kathmandu

Mathematics Education Forum November 2011, Vol. II, Issue 30. Year 15, pp 33-35

environmental factors, innate characteristics of mathematics, failure and the influence of early-school experiences of mathematics. According to Ma (1999) once math anxiety takes shape, its relationship with mathematics achievement is consistent across grade levels. Satake and Amato (1995) and Hardfield et al. (1992) also reported similar findings in their study. Symptoms The four most common symptoms of math anxiety can be listed as below: • • Panic: The feeling of helplessness towards a mathematics problem causes panic in the student. Paranoia: The student or adult think they are the only person not capable of completing the mathematics problem even if it is a very general math ematcs topics. • Passive Behavior: The student or adult decides they will never understand or be comfortable with mathematics so they actively decide they will do nothing about their problem. • Lack of Confidence: The student or adult anticipate the feeling of helplessness and expect to never know the answer to the problem. They rely on other people in their life to help them complete checkbook. Causes of Math Anxiety There are numerous causes that develop students’ mathematics anxiety. More specifically, rote-memorised rules and the manipulation of symbols with little or no meaning are harder to learn than an integrated conceptual structure, and this can result in effective mathematics functions such as balancing their

Mathematics Education Forum November 2011, Vol. II, Issue 30. Year 15, pp 33-35

stumbling block for the child (Skemp, 1986). Greenwood (1984) stated that the principle cause of mathematics anxiety has been in teaching methodologies. He said that math classes did not encourage reasoning and understanding. Teachers can create anxiety by placing too much emphasis on memorising formulae, learning mathematics through drill and practice, applying rote-memorised rules, and setting out work in the 'traditional' way. Mathematics anxiety may therefore be a function of teaching methodologies used to convey basic mathematical skills which involve the mechanical, 'explain-practisememorise' teaching paradigm, which emphasizes memorisation rather than understanding and reasoning. Butterworth (1999) believes that a lack of understanding is the cause of anxiety and avoidance and that understanding based learning is more effective than drill and practice. A lack of confidence when working in mathematical situations is described by Stuart (2000) as the cause of mathematics anxiety. Norwood (1994) emphasized that mathematics anxiety did not appear to have single cause, but was, in fact, the result of many different factors such as truancy, poor self image, poor coping skills, teacher attitude and emphasis on learning mathematics through drill without understanding. Measures to Lesson Mathematics Anxiety In order to reduce mathematics anxiety and increase

achievement, Miller and Mitchell (1994) suggested that teacher should create a positive learning environment, free from tension and possible causes of embarrassment or humiliation. The National Council students.

of

Teachers

of

Mathematics

(NCTM)

(1989,

1995b)

suggestions for teachers in order to avoide mathematics among the

Accommodating for different learning styles

Mathematics Education Forum November 2011, Vol. II, Issue 30. Year 15, pp 33-35 • •

Creating a variety of testing environments Designing positive experiences in mathematics

classes

Refraining from tying self-esteem to success with Emphasizing that everyone makes mistakes in

math

mathematics
• •

Making math relevant Letting students have some input into their own Allowing for different social approaches to learning

evaluations

mathematics Conclusion If students have feelings of tension and anxiety that interfere with the manipulation of numbers and the solving of mathematical problems, the teacher needs to understand that the student has mathematics anxiety. The main cause of mathematics anxiety is losing one’s self-confidence (Tobias, S., 1993). Mathematics anxiety is an emotional reaction which is based on an unpleasant past and negative mathematics experience which harms future learning. Mathematics anxiety affects students' intellectual factors such as learning styles, persistence, self-doubt, and dyslexia (Trujillo and Hadfield, 1999). Students can develop mathematics anxiety by the causes of teacher anxiety, societal, educational or environmental factors, innate characteristics of mathematics, failure and the influence of early-school experiences of mathematics. In order to reduce mathematics anxiety and increase achievement, Miller and Mitchell (1994) suggested that teacher should create a positive

Mathematics Education Forum November 2011, Vol. II, Issue 30. Year 15, pp 33-35

learning environment, free from tension and possible causes of embarrassment or humiliation. References • • •
• •

Ashcraft, M. & Faust, M. (1994). Mathematics anxiety and mental arithmetic performance: An exploratory investigation. Cognition and Emotion, 8(2), 97–125. Butterworth, B. (1999). The mathematical brain. London: Macmillan. Cemen, P. B. (1987). The nature of mathematics anxiety. Eric Document No.ED 287 729. Greenwood, J.: 1984, 'My Anxieties about Math Anxiety', Mathematics Teacher 77, 662- 663. Hembree, R.: 1990, 'The Nature, Effects, and Relief of Mathematics Anxiety', Journal for Research in Mathematics Education 21, -46. Ma, X. (1999). A meta-analysis of the relationship between anxiety toward mathematics and achievement in mathematics. Journal for research in mathematics education, 30(5), 520-540. Miller, L.D.,& Mitchell, C.E. (1994). Mathematics anxiety and alternative methods of evaluation. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 21,353-358. Norwood,K.S.(1994). The effects of instructional approach on mathematics anxiety and achievement. School Science and mathematics, 94, 248-254. Richardson, F. C., & Suinn, R. M. (1972). The mathematics anxiety rating scale psychometric data. Journal of Counselling Psychology., 19, 551-554. Smith, B. S., & Smith, W. H. (1998). Coping with math anxiety. Retrieved 20June,2003,from http://www.mathacademy.com/platonic_realms/minitext/anxiety.htm Skemp, R.R.: 1986, The Psychology of Learning Mathematics, Penguin, Harmondsworth. Stuart, V. (2000). Math curse or math anxiety? Teaching children mathematics, 6(5):330–35. Tobias, S.: 1978, Overcoming Math Anxiety, Norton, New York:


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Mathematics Education Forum November 2011, Vol. II, Issue 30. Year 15, pp 33-35 •

Trujillo, K. M., & Hadfield, O., D. (1999). Tracing the roots of mathematics anxiety through indepth interviews with preservice elementary teachers. College Student Journal, 33(2), 11.

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