Overcoming Math Anxiety in Everyday Life

Math anxiety is common. Many people, unfortunately, had bad experiences with their early math teachers. They may have had other negative experiences also, perhaps someone telling them, when they were children, that they were just no good at doing math. Those bad early experiences tend to stick with people and haunt them for a long time.

When people are anxious about math, they try to avoid it. Then problems crop up in everyday life,because you really can’t avoid math altogether.

Some women may have particular problems with math anxiety if they were told, as children, that girls can’t do math and/or that being good at math is unfeminine. For women struggling with that problem, learning math skills as an adult can be very exciting and empowering. Not only will you gain new areas where you feel competent, but you can also have the experience, which can be thrilling, of learning that the limitations that other people placed on you were false.

Give yourself permission to use whatever aids are available that will help you. You don’t need to do math in your head or with only a pencil and paper. Carry a little calculator with you. Consider a card for your wallet that will help you calculate a restaurant tip.

If you’d like to learn some math concepts and skills that you never quite mastered the first time, you can do that now, at home, on the internet. There are many tutorials online for any math-related subject you might be interested in. By working privately and at your own pace, you can avoid much of the anxiety that time, test, and grade pressures causes childroom in classrooms. Try treating your self-taught learning as a game, doing only as much as feels comfortably challenging.

Give yourself positive reinforcement. Whenever you get the courage to attempt a math-related task you previously avoided, give yourself a little treat and a metaphorical pat on the back.

Techniques to avoid general anxiety can be used to help deal with math anxiety. Take slow, deep breaths, and consciously relax your muscles. Unclench your jaw and drop your shoulders.

Remember, you are an adult and there are no tests! You are responsible only to yourself. Every time that you use math in your everyday life, every time you are able to reduce your anxiety level even just a bit, every time you master another new math skill, you are a big winner. You don’t have to be doing this, and many people never will, so give yourself credit for a self-improvement job well done.

Highly recommended reading: ‘Mind Over Math’ by Stanley Kogelman and Dr. Joseph Warren