Math Haters

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Why Do People Hate Math?|
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Why is it that people hate maths?
Truly, there is no bona fide reason why mathematics in particular should be disliked. It forms an inevitable part of life that every human must confront at some time in their lives. Math, as defined by Wikipedia.org, is the study of quantity, structure, space and change. Without realizing it, people integrate simple math into their lives, whether it is by playing a card game, taking out a loan, checking how many miles are available before running out of gas, or by balancing monthly expenses. Rather than prove to be helpful in everyday situations, it creates hindrances and anxiety, even to a point of fear in most people, when they are confronted with mathematics. All occupations require knowledge of math to a degree, some more than others. However, many people find it necessary to ask, “Why do we need math?” Math helps people think conceptually, which carries over to many other fields and practical applications. Therefore, there should be no real reason why people hate math. Firstly, when confronted with math in school, a subject more intensive than the foreign languages and sciences, many factors come into play. Primarily, math is taught through a series of unanswered questions and problem solving. Students feel pressured to find ways to solve these questions through logical methods and strategies, within time constraints. Students are more than familiar with feeling associated with the almost inevitable lack of comprehension in mathematics. A feeling of failure and embarrassment ensues, particularly when other students prove to be capable and successful. This is where an occurrence called ‘math anxiety’ happens. Math anxiety is a term coined by scholars describing a trend that is often taken into account when investigating students’ problems with mathematics. Mark H. Ashcraft, Ph.D. defines math anxiety as “a feeling of tension, apprehension or fear that interferes with math performance”. A further investigation into math anxiety by math.about.com describes it in a way relative to stage fright: “Math anxiety or fear of math is actually quite common. Math anxiety is quite similar to stage fright. Why does someone suffer stage fright? Fear of something going wrong in front of a crowd? Fear of forgetting the lines? Fear of being judged poorly? Fear of going completely blank? Math anxiety conjures up fear of some type: the fear that one won't be able to do the math or the fear that it's too hard or the fear of failure which often stems from having a lack of confidence. For the most part, math anxiety is the fear about doing the math right, our minds draw a blank and we think we'll fail and of course the more frustrated and anxious our minds become, the greater the chance for drawing blanks. Added pressure of having time limits on math tests and exams also cause the levels of anxiety grow for many students.” This happens throughout the school years, from doing simple fractions in primary school, to solving area in high school, to confronting calculus in college. The feeling of failure associated with math anxiety renders a feeling of helplessness and negativity towards the situation, making the math problem at hand seem not only difficult, but impossible to overcome. Students become quickly inclined to give up completely, a trend which becomes greater as the topics become more difficult, despite the many reassurances by teachers and peers.

After countless confrontations with mathematical failure, the student becomes liable to give up, as they would with failure in any other field. The student believes his or her “mathematical potential” has been reached and they can go no further in math. This is the basis of one of the myths surrounding mathematical education, where one either has or does not have a “mathematical mind”. If a student can learn other subjects at a college level, why not math as well? Author, consultant and speaker on...
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