Speech 3 write-up


Who here likes Math?


Who here thinks they have Math Anxiety?


Well I am sorry to tell you, but you will never be able to avoid math. As Shakuntala Devi, the “human computer” once said, “Without Mathematics, there’s nothing you can do. Everything around you is Mathematics. Everything around you is numbers”. To many of us, including myself, math anxiety affects us, often in negative ways. Math anxiety can cause detrimental effects to our learning and our outcomes as students. So what exactly is Math Anxiety? How does it affect us? And Why?


Point 1: Math Anxiety:

To begin, let me first draw a picture.

[Draw Harmonic Curve, with axis and labels] (From Math Professor Mark Levi)

[Talk about path of bicycle, with front wheel and rear wheel]

What do you see? Rather how are you feeling?

According to the American Educator Journal, Math Anxiety is defined to be the feeling of anxiousness, nervousness, and fear with the onset occurring in the presence of some mathematical concept or tool or problem. The journal also reports that approximately half of the populous suffer from some degree of math anxiety. They believe that onset of math anxiety begins at an early age, usually in elementary school. One theory is that people who suffer from Math anxiety are usually bad at math in general and that they feel insecure about their math skills, so they don’t engage with full effort to try to learn math. However, the journal disproves this theory by citing people such as myself. People who are proficient in math and perhaps above average than the common person. They found that this group of people when presented with a higher level of mathematical thinking or concept that they struggled with often led them to disproportionately disengage with the material than compared to average math anxious people. The journal attributes this phenomenon to perspective of the student. A math anxious student of lesser talents usually think mentally that they’re not able to grasp math concepts so they disengage from it. They believe they can’t “get it” so why bother trying. While proficient math anxious students feel that they can and should be able to grasp math concepts, but if presented with a difficult enough concept of issue they usually begin questioning their math proficiency and become more anxious and insecure about their ability and usually they don’t feel anxious about it. So to them it’s an entirely new feeling, which is why they are found to disproportionately become more anxious about math than their lesser math talented peers.


Point 2 How/Why/Effects of Math Anxiety and how to alleviate it:

So now we know what Math Anxiety is and how it affects us. Math Anxiety can be detrimental to our education in it. It effects students all the way to even college, the journal of scholarship of teaching and learning reports that undergrads in Statistics courses who reported math anxiety did more poorly than there non-math anxious peers. One way to alleviate math anxiety is to try to engage the students on a more personal connection to the concepts or material. Easier said than done. But perhaps there is a way. Statistics is one division of math with lots of real world application, but it is a tool. How I connect with Statistics is that when I see a report, I tell myself “every one matters” [explain this more]. Statistics is a very difficult to grasp division of Math, but I connect to it and see on a personal level. Perhaps if we look for the connections of math to ourselves or life, we can become more willing to learn it and thus our anxiety fades.



So, Math anxiety is a very real and very detrimental phenomenon. Some people have stopped trying to learn it altogether, but many avoid it as much as they can. But like Shakuntala Devi said, “math is everywhere”. So let me show you a simple but profound math result.

[Prove 1= 0.99999…]

Math is indeed a very complex subject, but it is no means that much different from other subjects. We all question our abilities and feel insecure about some subject, so why not find some way to alleviate our anxiety. We all deserve it.