Career & Education

Overcoming your maths anxiety

Sunday, July 29, 2018

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Maths is not just something you have to learn, it's something you have to do — and that horrible fear that you can't do it is maths anxiety.

Learning addition, subtraction, maybe even division and multiplication, was not too hard. All of those drills and flashcards in primary school helped you to learn basic maths. But then the anxiety struck when you faced that first distance problem in geometry. You know the one — there were two trains, going different rates of speed, starting in different cities, and you had to figure out who got there first.

But actually understanding maths, and not just memorising facts and formulas, will help you to overcome the anxiety.

Even if you think that you are much better at English, or that girls don't do maths as well as boys, or maybe that maths is too hard and you will never learn it, there is hope! Listen to Albert Einstein. He said, “Do not worry about your difficulties in mathematics; I assure you that mine are greater.” So there — your struggles actually mean you could be the next Einstein — but hopefully without the anxiety.

So how do you overcome that frustrating maths anxiety? Unfortunately there is no secret formula, hidden answer, or magic equation. There are, however, some simple solutions you can start trying today.


1. Start Small

You know some maths, right? Solve some of those problems that are short and easy. Getting them right will give you some confidence. Slowly build on those steps and you can advance to the problem at hand, knowing you can do this. Take a deep breath and let the maths anxiety go down as your confidence goes up. Try to get super-organised and keep your notes of terms, formulas, concepts, and theorems easy to read and find so that they can help you get back on track when maths anxiety strikes.


2. Keep At It

Maths anxiety will build over time if you let it. Practising your maths skills, doing some maths every day, will make it more familiar and less scary. Play some maths games online or try Sudoku. Doing maths with others in a group can help as well, rather than trying to learn on your own. You can learn from your friends and not feel so alone. The only way we get better at something is through practice, so practice a little each and every day. And that doesn't always mean using worksheets — there are great math games that let you practise the skills while actually having fun.

3. Get Help

Okay, so you still can't breathe when you walk into maths class, and you sink into your desk hoping that the teacher will not call on you to work out that problem on the board. If you don't understand something, ask a question. Simple, right? There's nothing wrong with getting some clarification or admitting you don't understand a part of the problem. You are entitled to clear instructions or examples. If that just isn't enough, seek out a tutor. A professional tutor or even another student who is really good at maths can work with you to find a way to help you understand the concept with which you are struggling. If math anxiety won't let you talk to another person, go online and find some instructional videos. It can be really helpful to have a concept described to you in a different way.


Once you can overcome your maths anxiety, you'll be able to see the subject for what it really is — a beautiful language that shows the relationships between things. Maths isn't just a bunch of stuff to memorise, but the understanding you'll use every day of your life to make important decisions and navigate adulthood. You've got this!



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