Math Anxiety

A number of books have been written to help kids and parents in overcoming anxiety about mathematics. Many times parents pass along their own fears about math to children inadvertently. This review comes from the "Daily Report Card" for Nov 13, 1995. Daily Report Card was a service of the Education Commission of the States and the National Education Goals Panel.
READING ABOUT MATH: CAN BEAT MATH ANXIETY A new series of read-aloud books is designed to beat the "I- hate-math" syndrome by having parents read about math to their young children (Innerst, WASH TIMES, 11/7). "I'm trying to change how people look at math," said Marilyn Burns, a former teacher who teamed up with Scholastic, Inc., to publish the series called "Hello Math Reader."

According to Burns, parents often are to blame for their children's fear of math. "Don't complain about math in front of your kids," she cautions. "Fear of math is inherited." Burns observes that it is generally accepted that reading out loud to children benefits their language abilities, but few think of reading in connection with math skills. She recommends that parents "nip in the bud" early fears of math by "engaging in 'math time' reading and other activities," writes the paper.

The colorfully illustrated series beings with "Monster Math," for preschool and first grade. The TIMES describes the book's first story: "Twelve little monsters wake up at seven. One jogs away. There are ..." Suggested activities are described at the end of the book, and focus on relationships such as one fewer and one more.

Physical properties such as size and weight are the focus of the next level book "Slower Than a Snail," designed for kindergarten to second grade. "A Quarter from the Tooth Fairy," is the first- and second-grade book, which talks about money. Second and third-grade students are the target for "How Much is That Guinea Pig in the Window?" which is about a class that earns $50 to buy a pet.

Burns is a promoter of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics curriculum guidelines "that place less importance on paper-and-pencil drill and more on numbers sense," writes the paper. The TIMES adds that the guidelines also stress "talking and writing about problem-solving strategies rather than focusing on answers per se."

Books about overcoming anxiety about mathematics

1. _Overcoming Math Anxiety_ by Sheila Tobias, Houghton-Mifflin, 1978 Although the title suggests that it is a self-help book it more is a description on what math anxiety is, and why it occurs. The book contains some ideas about why high school aged students might develop math anxiety.

2. _Mastering Mathematics: How to be a Great Math Student_ by Richard Manning Smith, Wadsworth Publishing, 1991 This book is written primarily for community college students, but may be useful for high school students as well. The author has many ideas about what causes poor performance in math classes and how to combat it. One such idea is that students who are ill-prepared for a test are more likely to get mental blocks on tests.