Math 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 math anxiety.
Learning addition, subtraction, maybe even division and multiplication, was not too hard. All of those drills and flashcards in elementary school helped you to learn basic math. But then math 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 — well, something like, who got there first? But actually understanding math, and not just memorizing facts and formulas, will help you to overcome math anxiety.
Even if you think that you are much better in English, or that girls don’t do math as well as boys, or maybe that math 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 math anxiety.
So how do you overcome that frustrating math anxiety? Unfortunately there is no secret formula, hidden answer, or magic equation. But there are some simple solutions you can start trying today.
1. Start Small
You know some math, 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 math anxiety go down as your confidence goes up. Try to get super-organized and keep your notes of math terms, formulas, concepts, and theorems easy to read and find so that they can help you get back on track when math anxiety strikes.
2. Keep At It
Math anxiety will build over time if you let it. Practicing your math skills, doing some math every day, will make it more familiar and less scary. Play some math games online or try Sudoku. Sometimes doing math with others in a group helps more than trying to learn math 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 out there that let you practice math skills while actually having fun.
3. Get Help
Okay, so you still can’t breathe when you walk into math 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 math can work with you to find a way to help you understand the math 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 math anxiety, you’ll be able to see math for what it really is — a beautiful language that shows the relationships between things. Math isn’t just a bunch of stuff to memorize, but the understanding you’ll use every day of your life to make important decisions and navigate adulthood. You’ve got this!