Do your palms get all sweaty and you start to have a panic attack when you are asked to do a math project, or complete an assignment at work that requires a lot of math computations? You are not alone! Many people fear math – it is quite common. The feeling is similar to stage-fright.

Just as any other fear, math anxiety usually stems from a bad experience with math. You either didn’t have a teacher that knew how to present the subject in such a way that you understood it, or you made the experience far different than it needed to be by putting barriers up in your own mind – telling yourself you just aren’t good at math and won’t be able to get it. Your brain then protected you and put up its own barriers.

In math, memorizing the rules is often the simplest part – and there are a lot of rules. It’s applying those rules at the proper time that causes the confusion. Take fractions, for instance: do you invert the numbers for multiplying or dividing? Once inverted, do you break it down to the lowest common denominator?  Being able to know how to use the rules will go a long way in relieving the stress and anxiety when you have to do math.

When you put yourself into a negative frame of mind – where you are sure you can’t do it, then you can’t. The negativity is blocking your ability to succeed. Once you turn to a positive, can do attitude you will find your anxiety beginning to disappear. 

How can you overcome math anxiety? 

  • Begin with a positive attitude. As Ralph Schnyder says: YOU CAN DO IT!
  • Math needs to be understood. If you don’t understand – ASK. If your teacher is not teaching so you can understand it there is a safe bet you are not the only one. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions until you get it, and don’t settle for anything less. That is what the teacher is for.
  • Practice. The more you work on it the easier it will be.
  • Get help. If you need to, find someone who can tutor your or work with you until you understand it. Often, if taught right, you will be able to remember it from then on.
  • Practice – It makes perfect. Don’t just read your notes.
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. The best lessons come from a series of mistakes, and everyone makes them.
  • Practice – I can’t stress this enough. The more you practice the better you will understand the concepts.

In a clinical study, researchers took 28 college students who had math anxiety and found that even though they were anxious, found they actually did better on the tests than those who did not have the fear.The difference was the way the brain processed the information. Those who performed well had more activity in the front parietal region of the brain before the math problems were presented. The students who did not activate this area of the brain (even those who were not anxious) prior to the testing did not do as well. The students who activated their fronto-parietal regions, the areas involved in cognitive learning and the reversal of negative emotional responses, were able to motivate themselves to perform.

The level of anxiety was not as important as the ability to be prepared and take control of your responses. In other words, you get rid of the thoughts that you are going to fail, or you can’t do it, and you do better. These findings go along with the idea that anxiety limits cognitive performance and the ability to form memory by feeding on the negative instead of the positive.

Perhaps this bit of information will help you understand what I am trying to say: A famous actress was interviewed and asked if she had ever suffered from stage fright, and if so, how did she get rid of it. She laughed at the questions and said that even though she was an experienced actress now, she never got over the stage fright. She had learned to embrace it, walk on the stage and forget it. Embrace your fear, do your homework and prepare yourself, and proceed.



About the author:

Ron White is a two-time U.S.A. Memory Champion and memory training expert. As a memory keynote speaker he travels the world to speak before large groups or small company seminars, demonstrating his memory skills and teaching others how to improve their memory, and how important a good memory is in all phases of your life.




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