Mind-Puzzling Math!

By: cathy


Ever tried the addictive number puzzle game that is a certified craze worldwide? Sudoku, or Su Doku, is a deceptively game of logic. The rules seem easy. There is a nine-by-nine grid composed of nine three-by-three boxes. Some numbers are already filled in to a few of the 81 squares. The goal is to fill in all the squares so that each row, column and box contains the numbers 1 through 9 only once.

Sudoku has a fascinating history. “Su” means number in Japanese, and “Doku” refers to the single place on the puzzle board that each number can fit into. It also connotes someone who is single. Hence, one way to describe the game is “solitaire with numbers.”

Sometimes Sudoku is misspelled as “soduko” or “sudoko.” Although its name is Japanese, its origins are actually European and American. Unlike many games which spring from one culture and are then absorbed by others, Sudoku's development represents the best in cross-cultural propagation.

Though this puzzle seems to be very enjoyable for the math savvy, there are still others who seem not to enjoy numbers that much. Generally, when we see numbers, we instantly think of math. Math and numbers which are difficult to avoid as they are everywhere. In fact, many people get nervous at the thought of studying or using math.

Mathematics as a subject is perceived to be difficult, obscure and are only meant for the supremely intelligent. It is almost as though it is normal that one is afraid of math or is no good at the subject. Often, this perception causes people to suffer from math anxiety. Anxiety is stress, tension, and strain on one’s body and mind. Anxiety can be broken down into two types: Somatic or the loss control of body. Some symptoms are sweaty palms, pain in neck or sick to the stomach. The other is Cognitive or loss of concentration. Its symptoms include negative self-talk, feelings of doubt, or mind wanders from test or tasks.

Many students might say that anxiety in class inhibits them or reduces their ability to perform well. In the case of mathematics, they would be correct. Psychological researches have somehow ascertained that math anxiety causes students of all levels to perform poorly in math.

For some students, trouble in math is driven by problems with language. These children may also experience difficulty with reading, writing, and speaking. In math, however, their language problem is confounded by the naturally difficult terminology, some of which, they only hear in math class. These students have an uncomfortable time understanding written or verbal directions or explanations, and find word problems especially hard to translate. A common difficulty also experienced by people with math problems is the inability to easily connect the abstract aspects of math with reality. Understanding what symbols represent in the physical world is important to how well and how easily a child will remember a concept.

Some key methods to conquering math anxiety center on not avoiding the problem. Just because they believe it's tough, one will presume that it can not overcome the anxiety. Whereas in most cases, it is seen that this is a mind block and one could be really good at math if he put his or her mind into it. Thinking things like “I don't have a Math mind” can lead nowhere. They are self-defeating games --- games you play on oneself. If a student knows what these games are, the student might be able to see oneself playing and actually enjoying them like the Sudoku. The exact cause of math anxiety are not known, but those who overcome it will perform normally and eventually be puzzled no more.

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