Why do people get so anxious about math? – Orly Rubinsten
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Why do people get so anxious about math? – Orly Rubinsten


When French mathematician Laurent Schwartz
was in high school, he started to worry that he wasn’t
smart enough to solve math problems. Maybe you know a similar feeling. You sit down to take a math test, and you feel your heart beat faster and your palms start to sweat. You get butterflies in your stomach,
and you can’t concentrate. This phenomenon is called math anxiety, and if it happens to you,
you’re not alone. Researchers think about 20%
of the population suffers from it. Some psychologists even consider it
a diagnosable condition. But having mathematical anxiety doesn’t
necessarily mean you’re bad at math – not even close. Laurent Schwartz went on to win
the Fields Medal, the highest award in mathematics. People might think that they’re anxious
about math because they’re bad at it, but it’s often the other way around. They’re doing poorly in math
because they’re anxious about it. Some psychologists think that’s because math anxiety decreases
a cognitive resource called working memory. That’s the short-term memory system that helps you organize the information
you need to complete a task. Worrying about being able to solve
math problems, or not doing well on a test, eats up working memory, leaving less of it available to tackle
the math itself. People can suddenly struggle
with even basic math skills, like arithmetic,
that they’ve otherwise mastered. Academic anxiety certainly
isn’t limited to math, but it does seem to happen much
more frequently, and cause more harm
in that subject. So why would that be? Researchers aren’t yet sure, but some studies suggest that the way children are exposed
to math by their parents and teachers play a large part. If parents talk about math like
something challenging and unfamiliar, children can internalize that. Teachers with math anxiety are also
likely to spread it to their students. Pressure to solve problems quickly
dials up stress even more. And in some cultures, being good
at math is a sign of being smart in general. When the stakes are that high, it’s not surprising
that students are anxious. Even Maryam Mirzakhani,
an influential mathematician who was the first woman to win
the Fields Medal, felt unconfident and lost interest
in mathematics because her math teacher in middle school
didn’t think she was talented. So if you experience mathematical anxiety, what can you do? Relaxation techniques,
like short breathing exercises, have improved test performance
in students with math anxiety. Writing down your worries can also help. This strategy may give you a chance
to reevaluate a stressful experience, freeing up working memory. And if you have the chance, physical activity, like a brisk walk,
deepens breathing and helps relieve muscle tension, preventing anxiety from building. You can also use your knowledge
about the brain to change your mindset. The brain is flexible, and the areas involved in math skills
can always grow and develop. This is a psychological principle
called the growth mindset. Thinking of yourself as someone
who can grow and improve can actually help you grow and improve. If you’re a teacher
or parent of young children, try being playful with math
and focusing on the creative aspects. That can build the numerical skills that help students approach math
with confidence later on. Importantly, you should give children
the time and space to work through their answers. And if you’re an administrator, make sure your teachers
have the positive attitudes and mathematical confidence necessary to inspire confidence
in all of their students. Also, don’t let anyone spread the myth that boys are innately
better than girls at math. That is completely false. If you experience math anxiety, it may not help to just know
that math anxiety exists. Or perhaps it’s reassuring to put
a name to the problem. Regardless, if you take a look
around yourself, the odds are good that you’ll see someone
experiencing the same thing as you. Just remember that the anxiety is not
a reflection of your ability, but it is something you can conquer
with time and awareness.

About James Carlton

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100 thoughts on “Why do people get so anxious about math? – Orly Rubinsten

  1. Na, I love math. I only get anxious when I don’t understand what I’m learning because I feel I need to be the best at it.

  2. I started the second year of high school.

    Thought I was bad at math, then vacations hit me.
    I'm actually good at it, it is just that they don't give us enough time for everything before the exam.

  3. My maths teachers get annoyed when you don't answer all the questions for homework. Today I stared at my homework for ages, panicking. Im super scared of teachers shouting and detentions and what not

  4. I loved art so much i drew anything everyday and my notebooks filled with my draws. My mom put me into sempoa and kumon since early age like 5 years old until 13 years old. When i was young i cried everyday bcs i have to do exercixse more than what’s capable for the average of my age. But the result is real. Now i pretty love math. But the other sad result is my imagination is now limited and i dont practice art anymore since i always practice to be more logical and theoretical. Its really sad for me that now i lost my interest and capability to draw 🙁

  5. This subject bothers me. I always wanted to be a math teacher, but because lack of choice in what kind of math you want I ended up with a math too hard and too much work requiring. Now it's one of my worst subjects and it's also one of my least favorite. My best subject is chemistry, but there's actually quite a bit of math in there which I do seem to understand and I'm way more interested in it.

  6. the children don't understand the school system and thats okay the reason we fail math is that the explanation is poor or the person is undisciplined

  7. As a chemical engineer, inventor, and quantum physicist, I can tell you that the emphasis on mathematics in the sciences does more harm than good

  8. I hate the fact that I’m good at math yet I have so much anxiety about it. Also I have an 89% which triples my stress lol

  9. Is this is the reason behind my bad performance in maths exams but when i solve the same paper in my home i feel thats to easy for me

  10. I get anxious because my teacher thinks I should know it -_- and when my friends finish first im like omgomgomgomg because I don't know how to do it and i then get my dad to teach me it

  11. I think it maybe depends on how a teachers teaching style clicks with the students learning style. This is definitely a huge problem for me, as soon as I walk into the classroom I panic internally.

  12. My math teacher in 9th grade used to give us 10 item quiz about algebra and of course it involved long solutions and she'd give us about ten minutes to complete the task. I was really slow at math and that is why I would always fail.

  13. Thanks love, i needed this video. I have my gre in 11 days and yes i am an engineer and great at maths. Always been my favorite subject but now bcz of time limit in gre, it's definitely giving me some anxiety time to time. Which would be conquered with a little more practice after I'd be able to solve the problems in time. Btw really thankful to have found it, it all makes sense.

  14. I was about to cry in my math class the other day bc i don't freaking know how to solve the problem the prof that has given to us . and when she said it should be pass to her i got really nervous and irritated at myself . also thr fact that i am an IT student stresses me more and increases my math anxiety .

  15. I’m actually really good at it so I can’t relate but this is a real thing because my friend is like this.

  16. Teacher :
    You should remember all the tables, squares, square roots etc etc

    Me :
    I HAVE THAT FUCKIN CALCULATOR TO DO IT

  17. Lmao i always get nervous when the answer is not just right or wrong cuz you have to actually know stuff.

  18. Help, I don't know if I have "Math Anxiety" and I would like to know if I do, but everytime I see at numbers and operations my mind simply keeps dodging it and I start unconsciously moving my fingers around like I was counting from one to ten constantly. My teacher is great, she does anything to help me understand, but every time I listen to her speak and everytime I turn down to look at the paper with numbers, it's like as if the numbers just ran around the paper and I had to catch them. It's so hard to focus, to the point I constantly try to think about math but my mind just forbids the subject. It's hard, and I don't know what to do.

  19. Math is so interesting if taught right. Personally, I believe it is one of those fun subjects that you can teach to students without putting pressure on them. Anyways, every student is different, sometimes a good challenge can help a student improve but sometimes it hust degrades their self confidence. I agree, teachers should be more careful in the amount of pressure they are putting on young minds especialy for a subject like math.

  20. I used to hate math and I used to prefer burning the whole world istead of studying math..now ..somehow..math is runnig in my veins ..math is not difficult ..math = practise ….but you know school and its programs are the main problem..

  21. My math teachers never knew that by embarrassing me for not knowing something, they were making it worse for me to focus and take in what they were saying. So i’d get more embarrassed then by the 5th time it’s explained to me it was like all my brain knew how to do was process humiliation.

  22. I came here because I thought I had this, but I think it isn’t really the same thing. When someone starts talking to me about maths, it’s like my brain disconnects and I really CAN’T see what they’re talking about. Like they say words but I don’t hear them, it’s like I’m underwater. I try so hard to understand what they say but they have to talk slowly and let a few seconds between their sentences to let my brain process it. Idk I guess I just need a LOT of time to visualize it? But usually in class or when talking about it people just go so fast and I can’t keep up and sometimes I even start to cry because they’re asking me to do things my brain doesn’t understand.
    I noticed it’s the same thing as when I listen to a foreign language; for example I’m learning korean and it’s exactly the same. When I listen to people talking in korean I have to focus really hard to understand words and their meaning. It’s the same thing when people talk in "mathematic language". That’s the best analogy I could find.

  23. I'm the second smartest student in class and I'm so bad at math , and I always cried because I cannot do anything to help my math but sometimes i got a good grade in math sometimes not…

  24. When my teacher calling us one by one i my heart beat fast because in my mind if I answer the question /problem I think that my classmate should laugh at me😪so when my teacher written a problem I not look at him.

  25. Liked that they brought up teachers because they are the reason I have math anxiety today when I never did before 🙁

  26. Fortunately, i've found so much great and warm math teachers. Like, you know, we can almost discuss about the subject i don't understand yet and the teacher would gladly teach me–while he also telling me some nice jokes ahahah 😂😂

  27. Math teacher: (walk in class) which happen to be detention teacher.. write a difficult math questions on board…
    Math teacher: who want to answer the questions?
    Me: have panic attack started to look at the ground
    Math teacher: (point at me)
    Me:(insert sad songs)

  28. Many years ago I borrowed a hundred bucks from Benny The Mule. I've been paying him back twenty bucks a week since then and I still owe him $450. So in college, I decided to face my fear of math head-on going into Accounting 101. Yeah, RIGHT. Fifteen minutes into the first lesson I was sweatin' heavier than Al Sharpton at a 'Klan rally. So I forged right ahead anyway and wound up earning myself a "B" in the course after all was said and done.

  29. I'm fine with factorization,HCF, LCM,geometry,EUCLID'S DIVISION,etc but as soon as the chapter gets involved with a, b, x, y, z … As soon as those alphabets start getting inside of a chapter in no time I find myself just sitting in the classroom with 49 other students staring at the whiteboard… Understanding nothing…. I hope I can pass my finals or I'm commiting suicide ….

  30. The problem with advanced Math is that its really unnecessary for the average person. Math is a tool, not a measure of intelligence. If you want to launch a rocket, calculus will help you. If you want to build a house, arithmetic is more than enough.

  31. I just cant do math I've been doing revision so much and it's still difficult for me I have an exam tomorrow and I'm honestly not expecting to pass

  32. Its how fast they require test takers to finish tests. Its all about speed. I'm not positive schools are interested in actually teaching math. Its all about how fast you can do it. Nothing else matters. Can't do math quickly, get anxious, do worse, get upset, frustrated, can't think, its a spiral.

  33. I am carrying out research on the effects on maths anxiety on decision making for my MSc Psychology project I would be VERY grateful if you could click on the click and complete my study, so we can hopefully gain some insight!
    https://essex.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_cAcsDaeKSn0CiJD?fbclid=IwAR1GTQs_8OVQ8b5RgnKQVz-bg9Klao7k7h1rUwefn2zm1h__9k4ElZgcOEc ONLY 18+ individuals please!

  34. Im anxious about math because..
    My parents Will Punish me Because I'm not smart at math
    THEY FRIKEN FORCED ME
    And they got angry while teaching me..
    i just Cant…focus,BECAUSE THEY ARE MAD WHILE TEACHING ME
    3 words for my parents and math if you see this
    stop teaching math.

  35. Imagine being called terrible at maths by a middle school teacher only to win the highest award in it lmaoo

  36. For me, I love certain areas in math (functions, calculus, some geometry), yet I get anxious about those areas, and constantly self-deprecate myself and my “lack of” ability. To counter this during an exam, I’ve tried humming songs I love in my head, I like some nice 70s soft rock so I’ll be humming like America or Player or something, and that makes me feel like I’m at home, solving problems in a familiar, stress free environment. I also try get a lot of sleep before a math exam and I don’t study for it much the night before, honestly I don’t study much at all but I try to understand the concept of how and why a formula works rather than simply memorising it and following my teacher blindly. I recommend trying out a question yourself before the teacher solves it, and sometimes try deviating from using the formula, make your own method that works consistently as it’ll increase your understanding. But yea, math is fun, but if it’s not, try changing your perspective and shift your mindset off of marks and try to enjoy the logic behind why things work.

  37. I try to listen to the teacher but she just doesn’t explain it in a way I can understand I can do addition and subtraction but multiplication,division,decimals,fractions are very hard for me my dad works with math all the time (surveyor) and sometimes he will come in my school room (I’m homeschooled) and if I’m doing math I would have to switch to a different subject so he wouldn’t start with the “YOu shoUld kNow thIs stUFF” “itS noT thAt hArd” and then we he explains it it becomes even harder to understand I used one of those math dvds things where it has all these lessons and it made math fun and I loved it it also explained how to do the problem in a step by step way I think if I can get those dvds. back it will help me improve a lot

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