Mathematics – Why Is It So Scary?

By: Kenneth Williams


The mere mention of the word has some people running for the hills.

But why?

Why does such a fundamental, important and widely taught subject trigger so much mental pain?

Answer: It all comes down to psychological conditioning. Your math comfort level depends on your experiences with math up till now. These experiences – positive or negative - have shaped your belief system.

As a test, look at these four common misconceptions and see how you relate to them:

Belief #1: “Math can only be solved by one method.”

Historically, many math teachers and tutors learned one method of solving a math problem. They then taught just one method to their students. This places both students and teachers at a disadvantage.

Mathematics is not as rigid as it appears. Mathematics students should strive to find more than one way to solve a problem.

This not only encourages understanding, but advancement in the field of mathematics.

Belief #2: “Math should be taught in one style of learning.”

Solid educational research has shown that we process information in different ways, and that each of us responds better to a particular learning style.

Visual learners are one example. These people prefer to see visual representations of mathematics. They prefer creating a mental picture to help them solve a problem. Therefore, working strictly with numbers and words doesn’t provide a productive learning experience for visual learners.

Another type of learner is the kinesthetic learner, who prefers a “hands on” experience. This type will understand a math problem much better when they can physically count the number of objects.

Belief #3: “Math is difficult.”

This belief stems from previous negative experiences with mathematics.

Did you have a teacher that was very strict in the past and didn’t provide the proper educational environment for learning mathematics?

Were you ever made to feel embarrassed in the math class?

Can you remember a time when you stumbled on a particular topic and felt left behind with the lessons?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions then take comfort from the fact that you are not alone. People of all generations can cite bad experiences with math.

Belief #4: “There’s no point learning mathematics when you can use a calculator/computer instead.”

Technology is a learning aid that is beneficial, but must not be abused. You need to understand how to compute basic level math problems, as you will need these skills every day of your life.

What if your calculator breaks? What if you are stuck in a situation where you need to calculate a number and don’t have technology to help you out? You need to rely on your own capabilities.

It is critical to understand that math obstacles can be overcome. You can achieve math success if you understand that you may process mathematics information differently than your math teacher, neighbor, or friends.

You can vastly improve your chance of mathematics success if you change your attitude to the subject. Drop the negative mindset and be open to new ways of looking at mathematical problems.

It is amazing how a positive attitude can break through false beliefs and tame the mathematics monster forever.

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Kenneth Williams is a math teacher with over 31 years experience. He is also author of 'Fun With Figures' which shows anyone of any ability the easy way to do mental math. Visit the site today and find out what you didn't learn in the math class. Visit:

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