Even though they historically score higher on the math section of the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) than on the verbal, math anxiety is far more common in students than verbal anxiety, or glossophobia. The reason for this phenomenon is not accurately understood. Experts speculate that it is mostly likely related to the precision involved in the so-called "science of quantity." In other words, partial credit is seldom given for getting close in math. It is an all or nothing game where the player/student is either completely right or wrong. This tends to put an incredible amount of pressure on students who see themselves as mathematically challenged.
The problem
If you avoid math because you believe that it's simply not your subject, you will inevitably get worse and worse at it, since math is all about exposure and practice. You must follow the correct procedure or equation to get the right answer. Not to mention the fact that avoidance will only make you more anxious about math, especially when it comes time to take a test or exam.
Is it all in your head?
Like anything else, students have natural talents and predilections for certain subjects. Some simply love solving problems with finite formulas and procedures, which makes math an obvious favorite for them. But others enjoy subjects that are not as black and white, where there is some nuance and room to speculate and opine. These students are far more likely to suffer from math anxiety than the former group. However, the condition is easy enough to address with a few simple tips.
Tip 1: Recognize math for what it is
When we dream, we don't dream in numbers...do we? But if we did, math would be much easier for all of us. After all, math is a language unto itself. It is a way of communicating and sharing important information numerically. If we think of math that way, it suddenly becomes more accessible. Yes, it is a foreign language, but one that can easily be learned, since it is based on simple, immutable rules, formulas, and equations that do not change.
Tip 2: Go to class
It might seem tedious, even pointless at times, but practicing math is the only way to improve in the subject. The fundamentals are obviously important, and if you don't know them, it will be impossible to climb that mathematical ladder, since everything is built one what comes before. Continuing with the analogy, if a single rung of that ladder is missing, you will not be able to ascend. You will get stuck at the midway point and grow increasingly frustrated because a lacuna in your learning is preventing you from moving on.
Tip 3: Do your homework
Yes, the answers can often be found in the back of most math textbooks. But that's not the point! Once again, the key to learning math is practice and repetition. If you don't put in the work, you won't score well on tests and exams, which can have a profound impact on your future. It doesn't matter if you aren't interested in a field that relies on math; the fact is that you need good scores to get your foot in the door. That alone is reason enough to study.
In addition to getting a check mark on your homework, repetition also helps you learn important equations and formulas, such as the quadratic formula, which is a sine qua non for the SAT and many other standardized tests. Completing daily and weekly assignments will help you memorize this information in no time.
Tip 4: Ask questions
In math, there really is no such thing as a stupid question. At any given time, there's a good chance that half the class won't know what the teacher or professor is talking about. So don't be afraid to raise your hand and inquire about a perplexing issue. Remember, everyone has questions when it comes to math. The only mistake students consistently make is not having the courage to ask a simple question. In addition to helping you out, a simple inquiry can also aid others in your class who were too timid to do what you did.
Tip 5: Review, review, review
The good thing about math is that you don't have to cram. It's not sociology or history. In other words, there aren't a whole lot of facts that you must commit to memory. Instead, there are a few important equations and formulas that must be remembered and then applied at the right time. Reviewing your notes and taking practice tests is really all you have to do when preparing for a math test or exam. There is no need to burn the midnight oil and pack as much information into your already overcrowded mind as possible.
Tip 6: Relax
Subjects that rely on incredible amounts of information require midnight study sessions and a whole lot of cramming. But math is different. What you need to succeed on a math test or exam is a clear head, which means you need a good night's sleep before the test. Staying up late and running strings of numbers through your mind will trip you up and make it harder to think clearly when the test is placed in front of you. Even if you feel a little unsure of yourself, it is always a good idea to turn in early the night before a big math test. Trust us, no amount of extra study in the wee hours or the morning will help you score higher. It is better to simply call it a night and recharge your batteries in preparation for the task in front of you.
Tip 7: Review important formulas
Once you arise from a good night's sleep, go about your regular morning routine. Take a shower, get dressed, and eat a hearty breakfast. But before you go to take your math test, make sure you look over the most important formulas and equations one last time. This will ensure that they stay fresh in your mind, even if you start to sweat a bit when you get your test.