Unit 1: Number Sense

Topic A: Emotions and Learning

Emotions, or what we feel about something, play a big part in how we learn. If we are calm, we learn well. If we are afraid or stressed, we do not learn as well. Many people are afraid of math. They fear making a mistake. “Math anxiety” is the fear of math.

People who suffer from math anxiety may get headaches, sick stomachs, cold hands, or they may just sweat a lot or just feel scared.

Do You Suffer from Math Anxiety?

Read the list below and put a check mark beside the ones you feel.

  • Are your palms moist?
  • Is your stomach fluttering?
  • Do you feel like you can’t think clearly?
  • Do you feel like you would rather do anything else than learn math?
  • Are you breathing faster than normal?
  • Is your heart pounding?
  • Do you feel cold?

Add any other feelings.

Math Anxiety

“Math anxiety,” or the fear of math, is a learned habit. If it is learned, it can be unlearned. Most math anxiety comes from bad memories while learning math. It may be from doing badly on a test or asking a question then being made fun of. These bad memories can make learning math hard.

Everyone can learn math. There is no special talent for math. There are some people who are better at math than others, but even these people had to learn to be good at math.

How to Deal with Math Anxiety

Anyone can feel anxiety that will slow down learning. The key to learning is to be the “boss” of your anxiety.

One way to be the “boss” is to relax. Try this breaking exercise.

Start by breathing slowly to the count of four. It may help to close your eyes and count. Now hold your breath for four counts and then let your breath out slowly to the count of four. The counting is silent and should follow this pattern:

“Breath in, two, three, four. Hold, two, three, four. Breath out, two, three, four. Wait, two, three, four.”

With practice, the number of counts can be increased. This is an easy and good way to relax.

Now, try this exercise quietly and repeat it five times slowly.


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Adult Literacy Fundamentals Mathematics: Book 1 - 2nd Edition by Wendy Tagami and Liz Girard is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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