Many students have a serious case of math-itis. While they are perfectly competent in other areas, they find math tests so confusing and anxiety-producing that they tend to forget what they know. Math anxiety is, in fact, a common condition among students, who find the whole experience of math class intimidating and stressful. Many students, in public and private schools, would never put the words “math” and “fun” together. The truth is, however, that you can be cured of math phobia. Take it from me. I used to fear math class, and I suffered countless nightmares about math for years after I graduated from high school, but, now, I enjoy tutoring kids in math, and I find the subject really compelling. Here are some ways I learned to stop worrying and love math.
Tip #1: Spend more time with math.
While it may seem counterintuitive, many students find math intimidating because they just don’t spend enough time speaking the language of math. They spend all day speaking English, but only one period a day “speaking” the language of math, and math is, after all, a language. If you don’t speak and practice its symbols and language regularly, you will find it confusing. Just spending a few minutes each day reviewing and practicing math facts can make you more conversant and practiced in the language, and when you enter math class, you will feel more at home.
Tip #2: Have fun with math.
There are fun ways you can practice math, such as online math games that allow you to indulge in computer games while bettering your math skills. Ask your teacher about other online resources and games. Several of the games allow you to practice basic math skills, such as multiplication and division facts, while racing against the clock.
Tip #3: Get to know the world of math.
Part of the reason math seems so dry and boring is that what’s presented in school isn’t really what mathematicians and scientists use. There are a lot of interesting applications of math, such as cryptography, or the study and making of secret codes. Such codes have been used since ancient times, and they have applications to other fields, such as history, as they have also been used in times of war. In addition, fun games such as the Rubik’s Cube use mathematical principles and formulas.
Tip #4: Don’t lose it on tests.
Students often understand their math homework but tend to get thrown on tests in the subject. Here are some strategies to rack up points on math tests. Usually, if you have really deciphered the “language” of math and have worked to understand the concepts on your homework, you won’t get so confused on tests.
Tip #5: Hang out with people who love math.
Not everyone who loves math is a freak. Find a cool math teacher or tutor and find out how he or she thinks. If you set up some extra meetings with your math teacher—or even with another math teacher at your school—you may be able to discover why that person likes math and how he or she thinks about math. I was inspired by working with a math teacher who spoke excitedly about helping kids think about the ideas in math. Being around someone who loves numbers may not make you into a math addict, but it may make math class just a little bit more exciting. Oh, yeah, and don’t forget to celebrate “Pi Day,” which takes place on March 14th (as pi is approximately 3.14).