Math Anxiety was a topic at the NCTM Conference in New Orleans that I was so lucky to have attended this month. One of the sessions (of the 750 that I could choose from!!) was called "Convert Math Anxiety into Math Achievement," and was presented by Carol McGehe, a math content specialist. She presented some truths and myths regarding math anxiety.
I see educators differentiating their instruction so well in subjects such as ELA, Social Studies, Science and more, and yet, many teachers continue to teach in exactly the same way that they were taught themselves. One lesson to the whole class, followed by a worksheet or exercise from the textbook, and when all your work and corrections are complete, then you go to the math centre. The math centre is where technology is often used as a reward.
We absolutely have to learn to differentiate our instruction in math class! Technology should play a huge role in making math more relevant and creative, and not just as a reward when all the work is done. We have to stop creating anxiety by using timed drills and competition between students. We have to show our students that math can be interesting, relevant and even beautiful (look at music, art and nature that uses mathematics!). We have to stop using math as a punishment (stay in at recess and do this math worksheet as your negative consequence). We have to show our students the reasons behind the procedures rather than relying on memorization. We have to teach our students strategies for learning facts, and we have to continue to encourage our students to know the facts with automaticity - something many parents and media think we are not doing. We have to encourage discourse in our classrooms, beginning in Kindergarten. We have to be upbeat and positive about math in body language as well as words. And we need to dispel the notion that math is hard, boring and irrelevant to our world.
My next few blog posts will focus on ways to accomplish just that.
Travelling Curriculum Support Teacher