Conquering Math Anxiety

Mar 22, 2022 | Barrie South

To celebrate World Maths Day on March 23, Tashdid, a seventh-grader, signed up for the upcoming Mathematics Olympiad, as per his mother's wish.

However, he has no liking for this subject whatsoever. On the other hand, Raisa, Tashdid's classmate, was thrilled to bits and could not wait for the competition to begin. She has always secured the first position in her school, and this time, she expects no different. She could easily come second, even without any preparation at all. Unlike Tashdid, who had been to several tutors, solving math just came naturally to her. For Tashdid, trying to grasp the subject felt like a war he needed to win. Despite hours of practice, things just did not seem to change. He wonders why.

Math is present almost everywhere, one way or another. From solving complicated differentials to counting the number of cars at the front during a red light – the subject is not limited to academic use only. Yet, there are students who struggle with it, despite solid efforts to grasp the concepts. Besides the intrinsic factors, the methods in which the subject is taught and practiced play a significant role in shaping children's perception of math. Teaching mathematics often does not come in a "one size fits all" package – leading to a student mastering math while another struggling with it. Moreover, teaching math to children from a younger age with practical examples, rather than only explaining theoretical equations, can go a long way in instilling complex mathematical concepts in young minds. Combining the priority towards students' requirements with practical teaching elements minimises the possibility of inducing disparity among students in understanding math. With such teaching methods, both Raisa and Tashdid may have been equally excited about the Olympiad. 

With significant involvement in the development process of children, math caters to their problem-solving and logical thinking skills. Moreover, solving math problems often works as an exercise for the brain, eventually helping children curate long-term life skills such as taking care of finances. Whether in the academic or professional fields of science, commerce, or social science, math has a role everywhere. Recognizing this crucial role of math, World Maths Day was introduced in 2007. This year, World Maths Day will be celebrated on March 23 as one of the world's largest global educational events. This day is primarily aimed at connecting the global learning community and fostering friendships between children of different cultures as they learn to excel in mathematics together.

Coming back to the teaching techniques, it is vital to instill math-based ideas into children from the very beginning, through abacus, shapes, drawings, and even playdough. This helps in building the foundation and preparing the brain to become familiar with solving complex issues in the future. As a teacher, it is imperative to consider the opinion of all the students by asking for their perspectives and creating an environment open for two-way communication. In this way, the children will feel validated, enabling them to present issues without hesitation. Moreover, this creates the scope for the teacher to understand and tailor their lessons according to each child's specific needs. The IB curriculum is based on the same philosophy, making it ideal for children wanting to excel in mathematics. Schools like International School Dhaka (ISD) under the IB curriculum have been applying these methods among their students, recognizing the impact of mathematics and imprinting them within children's minds.   

In the month of World Maths Day 2022, we wish for minds free of math anxiety.               

Tue Mar 22, 2022 05:06 PM 

Syed Mujibur Rahim