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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Math Anxiety: Real or Imagined (and does it matter if it is one or the other?)

In his foreword to Skemp’s The Psychology of Learning Mathematics, Foss stated that
mathematics is a curious subject, psychologically. It seems to divide people into two camps…there are those who can do mathematics and there are those who cannot, or who think they cannot, and who "block" at the first drop of a symbol. (cited in Skemp, 1971, p.9)

Math Anxiety is a topic that interests me. I am not 100% convinced it is a true anxiety. I am also not a psychologist qualified to say what is and what is not an anxiety. The term "math anxiety" is often used lightly and quickly adopted by people who find adversity in the math classroom (and outside it as well). What is not clear to me is whether this is a domain specific anxiety. For example, could there not be a reading anxiety, a science anxiety, or a writing anxiety? Is there really anxiety in play, or is there some sort of learned helplessness and negative feedback loops?

These are on my thoughts as I investigate math anxiety and the elementary teacher for my new math coaching job next year.

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