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Helping Students Overcome Fear and Develop New Ways of Dealing with Math Mary Ann Ghosal, Eastern Kentucky University

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-> Definition -> Common math anxiety scenarios -> Fallacies that support math anxiety -> Interventions - relaxation and dealing with fear -> Interventions – improving study skills

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Math Anxiety is a fear-based response to learning and using mathematics (or mathematics- like) content to solve problems and evaluate outcomes.

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“I just went blank on the test. I studies a lot for it and I knew everything beforehand, but, as soon as the teacher handed it out, my mind went blank. I could only do one problem and I got stuck on that one. I can’t pass this class. I’m too stupid!”)

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◦ -> A student gets extremely frustrated when not understanding a problem quickly. S/he gives up quickly, and leaves the tutoring center. ◦ -> A student doesn’t study in order to avoid frustration. This student may arrive in the tutoring center 30 minutes before a test and wants the tutor to help her/him prepare.

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Fallacy: Folks either have a “math mind” or they don’t. I don’t.” Fact: Most people (even mathematicians) have to work hard to learn mathematics.

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Fallacy: “Ever since I was in 3 rd grade I’ve never been able to do math.” Fallacy: “My Dad’s an engineer and he always told me that girls couldn’t do math.” Fact: If you start in the right class, have a realistic understanding about what math learning requires, and use good study skills you are very likely to succeed in your math course.

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Math anxious students are often very tense when they work on mathematics, especially in testing situations. A variety of relaxation techniques can be used to reduce tension prior to and during math activities: 1. Dr. Kevin Stanley, a psychologist at the EKU Counseling Center teaches math anxious students to use progressive muscle relaxation to help prepare themselves for math classes, study sessions, and tests. 2.In Math! A Four Letter Word Sembera and Hovis suggest that students who begin to panic during a test put down their pencil, close their eyes, breathe deeply, and use other fear removing techniques to calm down before returning to the test.

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Math anxious students often experience fear-based negative self talk when they do math. (E.g., “I’m stupid; I can’t do this.”) Note: ◦ These thoughts are discouraging and they often overstate the negative to the point of being irrational. ◦ They distracts students from the math at hand.

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The way I usually begin working with students who say they experience negative self talk is: 1.I ask them to watch the video, Math, a Four-Letter Word. 2.After the video we discuss their reactions and if they relate well to the material about negative self talk, I ask them to make a list of their most common self talk statements. (Continued on next slide)

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Continued: 3.We discuss each statement and I ask them to tell me how the statement affects them and whether it‘s really true. (My goal is to help them see the overstatement and irrationality in many of the statements.) 4.Then I ask them to develop a realistic and constructive statement for each negative statement and to use the appropriate realistic statement each time one of the negative statements come to mind. 5. I ask them to practice this for a week and to report on their results at our next meeting.

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The importance of study skills cannot be overstated. Many authors have long lists of effective math study techniques. I currently focus my main effort with students on these five study skill practices: 1.Start in the right course. (Sometimes students need to move to a lower-level course.) 2.Scan textbook material before each lecture. 3.Take brief but helpful notes (all that the instructor writes down plus points the instructor emphasizes). 4.Do homework daily, get help when stuck, and take breaks as needed. 5.Begin studying for a test at least one week ahead.

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Cynthia Arem, Conquering Math Anxiety, 2 nd Ed., Brooks/Cole, Wadsworth Group, Thomson, 2003, ISBN 0-534-38634-2 Lynn Hart and Deborah Najee-Ullah, Studying for Mathematics, HarperCollins,1995, ISBN 0-06-500647-X Mary Catharine Hudspeth and Lewis R. Hirsch, Studying Math, Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co., 1982, ISBN 0-8403-2768-4

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Paul D. Nolting, Winning at Math, 2 nd Ed. Academic Success Press, 1991, ISBN 0-940287-19-6 Cheryl Ooten, Managing the Mean Math Blues, Prentice Hall, Pearson Education, Inc., 2003, ISBN 0-13-043169-9 Angela Sembera and Michael Hovis, Math! A Four Letter Word, The Wimberley Press, 1990, ISBN 0-9627036-0-5

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Richard Manning Smith, Mastering Mathematics: How to be a Great Math Student, Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1991, ISBN 0-534-14628-7 Kevin Stanley, Eastern Kentucky University Counseling Center, Making Friends with Math, unpublished Power Point Presentation, 2008

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Please go to the Discussion Board and respond to the prompt you will find for this module. Thank you.

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