How to overcome math anxiety
Using effective techniques to cope with math anxiety can be useful in overcoming this condition and getting a better understanding of this challenging skill, says Dr. Victoria Horvath, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of psychology at New York University.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), learning math can be like writing a novel, possibly a difficult and long process, with multiple stages and learning to process the material in writing as well as on a phone or computer. In some cases, learning a new technology such as online shopping or complex electronics may lead to anxious thinking about the finite amount of time they will have.
Too afraid to use the calculator, too afraid to play some games, or even afraid to ask a trusted person for advice, people avoid the subject or risk not learning about it.
Each level of anxiety raises more questions and makes problem solving more difficult, which can make math confusing and challenging.
“Learning new things brings challenges and learning how to deal with them takes practice,” Dr. Horvath says.
Find your triggers
Learning to control math anxiety starts with identifying your fears and replacing them with a positive self-talk. Self-talk is the internal message you send to yourself, in moments of high anxiety, that helps you deal with difficult situations.
Stop doing things that make you anxious or fearful – such as paying off credit card debt – or spending time at work that is intimidating.
Some people find a computer program, video game, or other discipline helpful for overcoming math anxiety. “You find a good place for practice and get to know the exercises of the program. It makes it fun to practice. One of the best techniques for helping people who feel math anxiety is to find a target they feel good about – in the process of writing a novel, solving a math problem, or speaking to a teacher,” says Michelle Meyer, a registered dietitian and associate nutrition professor at Colorado State University.
Familiarize yourself with a new math skill
Many people don’t have the confidence to learn a new skill, which can make it difficult to practice it. Some might want to learn new math skills but feel the anxiety.
Go through their life lessons
Try to look at all the math that they have been asked to do, from student loans to planning a career to finding time to learn new skills, she suggests. Many people choose to learn from the top down, such as through reading, but it’s important to remember the way they have always learned the subject. “A math challenge that builds on learned learning is an easier challenge,” Meyer says.
Change the way you think
Focus on what parts of the math problem you do know, or have learned while working on other math problems. Don’t worry too much about the math skills you don’t have; you need to focus on the parts of the math you do know.