When the rubber meets the road and a health message includes numbers

February 8, 2012

  I am reading some research about how math anxiety leads us to avoid doing things that   might have math or numbers included. I read one study where it all came rushing back to me. I was a freshman at the University of Michigan and taking the first of three classes in calculus. I didn’t quite understand some of the homework, so I visited the graduate teaching assistant’s office and was told, “If you don’t understand this, you better get out while you can ‘cuz it only gets harder.” I wasn’t feeling anxious about math until that meeting. In fact, I have always loved math and have a high aptitude for math. But worry and anxiety washed over me. There was no one to ask about this that I knew. It was my second week at a huge university with 10s of thousands of students. The TA must know what he was talking about. I dropped the class. Only to pick it up again and complete the three calculus courses with success later.

Still, I read the research conducted by Jackson and colleagues and that experience came flooding back, as the researchers found that at the college level, especially freshman year, “Students were told to leave class if they did not understand the material.”

Perhaps such experiences and our own love for math and science leads us to spend time with our granddaughter and grandson doing math. Making it a game more often than not, with me playing with my grandson–who will be 4 years old in the next week–counting and arranging and rearranging.                                                               

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