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THE WH’s OF MATHEMATICS ANXIETY 1) What is Mathematics Anxiety Tobias (1978) defined mathematics anxiety as feelings of tension and anxiety that interfere with the manipulation of numbers and solving of mathematical problems in a wide variety of ordinary life and academic situasions. Mathematics anxiety can cause one to forget and lose one‟s self confidence. Dreger and Aiken at 1975 investigate the presence of a syndrome of emotional reactions to mathematics which they designated as number anxiety. Meanwhile, Lazarus (1974) state that a student may, to a variety of reasons develop an emotional and intellectual block towards the learning of mathematics in the course of his school years which he further described as mathematic anxiety and be called as mathphobia, as irritional dread of mathematics. Lazarus described that a student who has developed an emotional and intellectual block against mathematics finds that making progress in mathematics and closely related fields is very difficult. Such a student actively turns away from mathematics and rapidly develops a fatalistic attitude about mathematics, fully expecting to do badly. Furthermore, Lindquist (1981) described mathematics anxiety as involving 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 or learning situations. In addition, Linquist states that mathematic anxiety can prevent students from doing their best from passing fundamental mathematics courses or from pursuing advanced courses in mathematics or the science. Besides that, mathematics anxiety can be seen as having both aspects as state anxiety and trait anxiety like Freud‟d formulation of objective and neurotic anxiety. Sometimes, state anxiety can be provoked by a stuation such as a student undertaking a mathematical assesement which has serious implications for their educational or vocational future. There are some other cases that it would be seem that mathematics anxiety is an A-Trait, deeply entrenched in the student‟s disposition as a result of previous experiences and likely to manifest itself in the face of any kind of mathematical challenge. Furthermore, anxiety reaction also depends on the uncertainty associated with environmental and cognitive factors such as the classroom climate, the teacher‟s teaching style and a great variety of other factors. The students may thus react with behaviours such as avoidance. For example, having to solve a difficult mathematics problem can appear threatening to a person if he perceives that inability to handle the problem deprives him of the feeling success or causes a loss of regard by others. Wiliam (1972) in discussing the effects of anxiety in arithmetic claimed that simple tasks can made anxiety into effective motivator but as tasks become more complex for students, it was more likely that high anxiety would interfere with perfomance. 1 2) Why does Mathematics Anxiety Happen? Many interrelated factors contributed to the formation of mathematics anxiety. In fact, its formation is attributed to many factors which are interrelated with one another and hence is difficult to pin point it‟s actual roots. Lazarus (1974) argued that mathematics anxiety results from poor instruction and poorly designed mathematics curriculum. Burton(1979), Brush (1981) and Ferguson (1986) believe that mathematics anxiety is related to the abstract nature of mathematics. More, Tobias (1976) state that poor spatial skills make mathematical comprehension difficult for many people. From the affective perspective, Bush (1991) commented that mathematics anxiety arises from a climate in which negative attitudes and anxiety are transmitted from adults to children. Mc Millan (1976) found that teacher‟s attitude and enthuthiasm toward a subject had greater impact on student attitudes. More specificially, teachers with mathematics anxiety transmit their anxiety to their students (Kelly and Tomhave, 1985 ; Bulman and Young, 1982 and Lazarus, 1974). Furthermore, parents do play a role in mathematics anxiety where negative parental attitude towards mathematic may be transmitted to their children. At the end, that parents often reinforce their childrens‟s mathematics anxiety. From the research that was conducted by Puteh, 1998, it was found that the cause of mathematics anxiety were related to teacher personality and their style of teaching, public examinations and their effect, affective domain such as personality and self perception, feelings of difficulties and worries towards mathematics, parental expectations-their aspiration and standard, peer group influences and the relevance of the usage mathematics in everyday life. 3) Who Has the Mathematics Anxiety ? Mathematics anxiety among men and women is not uncommon. Mathematics anxiety occurs in both males and females and care must be taken not to add mathematics anxiety to the stereotype view that females are less capable in mathematics than males. Mathematics anxiety is considered to be a common characteristic among many students and adults (Buxton, 1981). Students is the one who likely to have the greatest anxiety towards mathematis especially one with bad past experiences on mathematics. There are several antecedents that lead to student anxiety like dispositional antecedents, situational antecedents and sociological antecedents. For example, students who lack confidence and doubt themself to do mathematics, not been guided by teacher well, discriminated against by teacher and friends due to lack mathematic skills and suffer from family problem tend to do poor in mathematic. Morris, 1981 found out that some students who do well in other subjects are convinced that they cannot do mathematics due to poor experiences in past mathematics 2 classes. They have developed a fatalistic attitude, fully expecting to fail in any attempts of mathematics. Tobias (1978) claimed that discomfort with mathematics in elementary or secondary school could develop into a full-fledged syndrome of anxiety and avoidance by the time the students graduates from high school. Besides that, a study by Betz (1978) suggests that mathematics is a problem for many college students, including those in advanced mathematics classes, where majors require an extensive background in mathematics. Lindquist (1981) found that the level of mathematics studied strongly influences how a college student will feel abaout mathematics. There a significance relation between scores on a standardized mathematics achievement test and level of mathematics anxiety. It is reported that people with higher achievement scores tended to report lower mathematics anxiety and the other way. In addition, study done by English (1989) revealed that teachers also suffer from mathematics anxiety. Teachers exhibiting higher mathematics anxiety levals were more likely to be a female, have a lower attitude toward mathematics, have completed fewer mathematics courses and have chosen to teach in the lower grades. While teachers who have performed well in mathematics courses and felt competent in teaching mathematics have minimal anxiety. Primary school teachers are often found to suffer from mathematics anxiety possibly because of the lack of a firm foundation in mathematics, coupled with the nature of subject itself. It is important to know such anxiety toward Mathematics can happen to anyone at any age no matter of their mathematical ability. 4) When does Mathematics Anxiety Occur? ` Mathematics anxiety occur when an individual is asked to solve problem in the daily life using mathematics and playing with numbers. They tend to become uneasy before they realize they always solve the problems in such situations without mathematics be mention. Mathematics anxiety can occur when students no matter in elementary school, high school and college students are given a harder tasks than usual or to solve the mathematic problems in given time. Besides that, mathematics anxiety can also occur when participating in class, listening to a lecture and while doing a math related problem. Most of all, the biggest mathematics anxiety in students always happen during a test or an examination which has the one that has serious implications for their educational or vocational future and determine their future life. Teachers, too have the feeling of anxiety in delivering mathematics lessons to their students. The feelings eventually grows bigger to a teachers that not a mathematics major, have a lower attitude towards mathematic and less competent in teaching mathematics. 3 I conclude that mathematics anxiety can happen anytime to anyone depending on the situations, knowledge and preparations. What we need to do is find a really good ways to reduce and eliminate it. 5) What created mathematics anxiety? Mathematics anxiety begin with student early perception and attitude toward mathematics. There always mistaken beliefs about mathematics that contribute to the negative, anxious feelings many people have about mathematics. All these thoughts results in students posseses less interest in mathematics and said mathematics is difficult and bored. It also have relation with one self esteem. Students whose believe that they are incapable of doing mathematics, they think they will look stupid and only humiliated themsef if they try to solve mathematic problems especially in front of class. This causes them to feel apprehension and anxiety to be in situation which involve calculation. From my reading, the major reasons why mathematics anxiety arises these days mainly come from teachers. Students tend to love mathematics and find it is challenging in positive ways because of their teacher and vice versa- students becomes scared of mathematics also because of their teacher. A poor student-teacher relationship worsen the anxiety. There are cases that students are afraid to ask questions to teachers because they do not know how to do it. Besides, the fear to be blaming by teachers (which in fact does happens a lot) for not understanding what was being thaught seems to have created a barrier between a student and a teacher relationship. In some cases, the way teachers ridiculed and belittled the students also play an important role in this aspect. More, the strict and fierce ways of the teachers handle their students had certainly created a degree of anxiety among their students and this in turn have negative effect on the students feeling towards the subject. Even more serious than stricness and fierceness was the effect of teachers using threats to force their students to excel in mathematics. This technique made the students feel afraid of the subject, afraid to do wrong in mathematics and only make matter worse for those who not like maths. Later, all these feelings develops into fear and anxiety of mathematics and those students will always remember their bad past experience while doing math. In addition, teachers who not showing interest in their students always frustrates the students. All the cold student-teacher relationship as appoint all above only made requesting the teacher‟s assistance would be the last thing students will do. Students willing to have the mathematics problems unsolved rather than met the teacher and ask for teacher‟s help. More than that, a teacher‟s style of teaching mathematics also results in dissatisfaction expressed which seem to lead to a certain degree of dislike for the subject. Students don‟t like when their teachers using an old-fashioned way of teaching such as memorizing, drill and practie, chalk and talk, figuring the numbers by hand and a rigidity in the way the lesson was conveyed. Students claimed that these traditional way of teaching is lacking in sudents own experience on math. Even some students said that “only when you go back and do it yourself 4 and experience it, then only you able to do it”. We cannot denied that teachers also have issues to finish and cope up with the syllabus but going too fast in teaching and learning process do not make things better. It is hard to deny the amount of anxiety that was created in the traditional approach adopted by teachers to the students. Another reasons that lead to mathematics anxiety is pressure of examinations and it effects. If the students keep failing in their tests, especially in their public examinations, negative feelings and dislikes for the subject are created. They also have the mind of failing and cannot do well in this subject for the next examination. Furthermore, the feeling of anxious grows bigger when students were sits for their mathematics test and examination. Sometimes, their fear is was beyond their understanding. This made them cannot think all the different ways to solve the problems and got stuck and mind went blank during the exams and finally result in poor achievement. Just the thoughts of going to have mathematics examination itself creates a great deal of anxiety in some students. Let alone doing the actual tests and exams. Besides that, the lack of right kind support and concern from the students families for their perfomance in mathematics seems to have contributed a lot to the negative attitude towards this subject. Coming from family with a father and mother background of not having a high education and cannot be refer to when having mathematics problems seems do not help in reducing the anxiety. Despite receiveing moral support and appropriate encouragement from parents, students always feel what they need most was practical support-someone that they can refer to. Students always felt that their friends played an important role in reeinforcing their negative attitude and behaviour towards mathematics. Some students in the reasearch admitted that they were strongly influenced by their friends for not bothering to make any attempts to study and work hard on mathematics. Most of their classmates were poor in mathematics and for the sake of acceptance in groups, they don‟t want to be different from all of their classmates. So, they just don‟t care about mathematics and take it for granted. 6) How do you reduce mathematics anxiety? Teachers must understand well why and what cause this mathematics anxiety to be occur and find ways to channel the anxiety into a proud acheivement. Morris (1981) commented that since anxiety is a learned response to a negative experience, it therefore can be prevented. Morris in her article entitled “Math Anxiety: Teaching to Avoid It” suggested constructive techniques and strategies for teachers to help prevent math anxiety among students. The tehnique suggests are: Create a positive, supportive classroom atmosphere Stress understanding the thought process Dispel the math mind myth Provide new positive math experience 5 Use concrete materias to teach content Make sure each concept is understood before continuing Reduce tension and pressure in mathematics classes Give positive feedback on written test There are few other ways to reduce mathematics anxiety than what Morris has suggests like: Always overcome negative self-talk, everyone must confident with themselves. Do not rely on memorization in study math, do it in creative way and use critical thinking. Essential to be creative. Use different styles and approaches in teaching math. Use mathematics games as an introduction to mathematic concepts. Use math humour – cartoons and jokes. Students works in groups Of all the ways that I list, I can say that teachers are the „mastermind‟ and must play all the role and must work hard to make all these things finally pay off. Sooner or later, we can only hope that mathematics anxiety can be reduced . 7) How do you eliminate mathematics anxiety? In my opinion, mathematics anxiety cannot be eliminate using only a step. It needs a series of steps and continuosly steps to get rid of the anxiety. Little by little, mathematics anxiety is reduced and later it will be eliminated. Yes, it do take times but how success met at the end is a sweet labour. What important is a lot of practice with all kind of exercises. Teachers can also turns the challenge into positive competition between class and to encourage students to work better in mathematics. Work in groups can help stdents to think more. There also some aspects that could be taken into consideration in order to eliminate mathematics anxiety: Avoid unnecessary time pressures. Remove some of the pressures from major tests and examinations. Developes alternatives to written tests. Stops the feelings of exam-oriented in entire nation. I believe that the mathematics anxiety in Malaysian society can be eliminated if all of us (including teachers, students, parents and community) works together (well cooperate) in a matter of time. 6

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