The Fear of Mathematics: a Life Obstacle

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  • Topic: Mathematics, Mathematics education, Mathematical problem
  • Pages : 44 (13783 words )
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  • Published : July 23, 2009
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University of Santo Tomas High School
España, Manila

This Research Paper

is presented by

February 27, 2009

Chapter 1


Just as the disposition and ability of children to benefit from having nursery rhymes and picture books to read then, children acquire a sense of number when they have early opportunities to encounter them in action. Families that provide opportunities for children to share a treat equally, to make intelligent guesses, and to play simple board and card games that require them to count, add, subtract, and match are giving them thinking challenges that develop number sense. Wakefield (1998, 59) stated that children who come to school without such previous experience usually encounter problems when mathematics programs and activities assume that mathematical relationships can be taught directly by the teacher in accordance with the curriculum, rather than being constructed by each child according to his or her level of previous knowledge.

Aside from equipping the children with reading comprehension and vocabulary, parents also equip them with mathematical skills. It is good that some parents do exercise their children in terms of mathematical abilities at a very young age. Doing this will surely benefit their learning process as they grow up and mature. However, not all people are able to withstand this mathematical ability because some parents do not actually care about the intellectual performance and capabilities of their children. This phenomenon may lead children into a serious dilemma of mathematical difficulty and fear. This may stem into the scenario wherein these children may not be able to cope up with the teaching strategy of the teacher and understand the mathematical lessons because of this mathematical difficulty and fear.

This mathematical difficulty and fear that leaves some of us defenceless at the thought of solving a mathematics problem has been dubbed mathematics phobia (Rameau and Louime, 2007).

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines phobia as an abnormal, exaggerated and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs, by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one's capacity to cope with it.

Tobias (1993) defined mathematics phobia as the feelings of tension and anxiety that interfere with the manipulation of numbers and the solving of mathematical problems in a wide variety of ordinary life and academic situations. Mathematics phobia can cause one to forget and loose one’s self-confidence. The fear of mathematics is deeply rooted and is often initiated by a child’s first experience with institutional mathematics.

Shores (2005) described how a mild case of mathematics avoidance can quickly turn into a severe case of mathematics phobia. He explained how the cycle begins with an anxious mathematics student, convinced of his or her inability to do mathematics, might avoid the subject or put forth little effort, leaving significant gaps in his or her mathematics development. Difficulty mounts as the student confronts more advanced skills, causing further anxiety and avoidance. Shores stated that unless mathematics anxiety is confronted, it can turn into a permanent block. He believed that, in addition to the help and support from the child’s family, teachers can help chip away at this block by helping the student approach mathematics with confidence.

Because of the nature of mathematics phobia, it can greatly affect a child's success throughout their education and their adult life. Schwartz (2000, 62) actually bragged about what ways can be done to help these students become confident about learning mathematics and ensure their success in class and on standardized tests,...
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