Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Learning to Love Math

By Lisa Barker

Math is scary. It is the subject that students are most anxious about taking, and it is the one that they spend most time worrying about when they are studying it.

A lot of this worry comes from the bad experiences that many of us have had with math in the past, and from the false belief that math is a difficult subject that we are either naturally good at, or incapable of understanding. The Algebra2go website is full of resources and study tips that can help you through your math classes, but one of the most important things you can do to ensure your success in math is to approach the subject with the right attitude.
Math is not as difficult or as scary as we often believe, and although a natural interest in numbers can help us to enjoy math, it is not necessary to be born a math genius to succeed in this class. Success in math depends much more upon motivation than natural ability or intelligence. If you want to learn math, and you are motivated to do the work, then there is no reason why you shouldn't be able to pass your chosen classes. Many students who are returning to study following time in recovery programs in California or after other interruptions to their studies express particular concern about math, but there are plenty of additional support services in place to help. The lessons you have learned during recovery can also help you in class. Having a strong support network of teachers, tutors and fellow students will be important, as will the qualities of courage, confidence, perseverance and pride.


Fear and anxiety are the main barriers to success in math. If you have the courage to start overcoming these fears by enrolling in a new math class, then you have the courage you will need to succeed. Once you begin studying in a more supportive environment, you will probably find that math is much less scary than you thought it was. We weren't born fearing math, and in fact, many people who later come to fear it did not find it at all intimidating when they were first learning to count, or watching episodes of Sesame Street. Often, it was witnessing the anxiety of others, or having a bad experience in a class where the teacher did not have the time or inclination to help us to understand a particular technique we found difficult that first made us fear math. Recognizing that it was not the math itself that was the problem can help you to approach your new classes with curiosity and determination instead of fear.


The same bad experiences that make us afraid of math can also make it difficult to feel confidence in our own abilities. It is too easy to accept the commonly held belief that math is a uniquely challenging subject and to assume that because we have struggled with it in the past, we are simply not capable of understanding it. However, these sorts of problems are more often the result of a lack of confidence or of proper teaching support than a lack of ability or intelligence. Going back to the point at which you lost your way can help you to regain your confidence. If you start your classes at a level you feel comfortable with, and make use of all the teaching support that is available to you, the topics that you struggled with before can become clear. Many people struggle for years before their additional learning needs are recognized, and then find that special aids are available that can make learning much easier, while others just needed a different style of teaching to help them to understand math. Don't be afraid of your teachers or of the tutors who can offer extra support. They are there to help you and they would certainly not want you to feel intimidated about asking for help.


Practice makes perfect, in math as in any other skill. There is a reason why your teacher asks you to complete the same sort of exercise multiple times. Repeating a particular technique can help you to retain it in your memory, and practicing basic skills like multiplication can help simple calculations to stick in your mind, just as you can find yourself memorizing the words to a song you have heard many times. Soon the answers will just pop into your head, without having to think about it.


Having the courage to try learning math, allowing confidence in your own abilities to grow, and persevering at the work even when it is hard, will help you to succeed in math, but it will also prepare you for any challenges you may encounter in the future. The work you do now will not only prove useful in your future work and studies, but it is also a significant achievement in its own right. The reputation that math has as a frightening and difficult subject prevents many people from even trying to understand it, but you have chosen to take on this challenge and beaten your fear of math. You should be proud of yourself, and you should use this pride to help motivate you in your studies.