Opinion
Mathematics Letter to the Editor

Watch Your Math Language: Not Everything Is ‘Anxiety’

September 29, 2015 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

Today, I read a blog post written by Education Week Teacher contributing blogger John Troutman McCrann, in which he talks about strategies for addressing “math anxiety.” I think the strategy McCrann highlights, maze moments, is wonderful.

But while, in general, I love the fact that educators are working hard to address students’ struggles in math, I feel that we need to change our language: We can’t keep calling it “math anxiety.” Yes, some students and adults have a hard time with math, but it is not an illness. Think of math as an art. I do not walk around and say, “I hate Picasso. I do not understand his work, and I am not good at painting. Please, I need a Picasso Anxiety workshop.”

Our words affect us and others. The efforts to sympathize with students’ struggles in math can have damaging effects. By labeling the subject as something that causes panic attacks, we are not addressing the real issues contributing to our math-phobic culture: pedagogical practices, educational policies, teachers’ salaries, students’ home life, school culture, and personal grit and perseverance.

Let’s stop putting the words “hate” and “anxiety” in the same sentence with “math.”

Vee Nguyen

Associate Faculty

Mathematics

Mira Costa Community College

Oceanside, Calif.

A version of this article appeared in the September 30, 2015 edition of Education Week as Watch Your Math Language: Not Everything Is ‘Anxiety’

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School Climate & Safety Webinar
Praise for Improvement: Supporting Student Behavior through Positive Feedback and Interventions
Discover how PBIS teams and educators use evidence-based practices for student success.
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Management Webinar
Build a Digitally Responsive Educational Organization for Effective Digital-Age Learning
Chart a guided pathway to digital agility and build support for your organization’s mission and vision through dialogue and collaboration.
Content provided by Bluum
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Drive Instruction With Mastery-Based Assessment
Deliver the right data at the right time—in the right format—and empower better decisions.
Content provided by Instructure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Mathematics Ditch Those Math Worksheets. The Case for Teaching Real-World Problem Solving in K-5
Connecting math to real-world problems gives students a more sophisticated understanding of how math works.
8 min read
conceptual illustration of falling Tetris blocks
akinbostanci/iStock/Getty
Mathematics Quiz Quiz Yourself: How Much Do You Know About Math Instruction?
Answer 7 questions to see how much you know about math instruction.
Mathematics What the Research Says Math Anxiety Weakens How Students Study. Here's What Teachers Can Do
A study finds students worried about the subject prepare less effectively, often without realizing what they are doing wrong.
4 min read
illustration of an exhausted boy studying on a laptop with numbers and equations circling above. His mother is behind him with hands on his shoulders while his head is in his hand.
iStock/Getty Images Plus and Gina Tomko/Education Week
Mathematics Opinion A Math Teacher's Frank and Funny Take on Math Education
Math is fundamental, yet recently seems to have been sidelined. Barry Garelick takes on math education and the teacher’s lot.
3 min read
Image of a student working on match equations.
E+