How math anxiety and the need for math literacy inspired me to investigate innovative teaching strategies
We live in a society that normalizes math illiteracy. It is normal to hear confirmations from our peers, that being “bad” at math is ok because math is a difficult subject. Parents working with their children will often, unknowingly, perpetuate anti math bias by saying things like, “I was never a math person.” Math, more than any other core subject, elicits a fear from students that seems to be generationally inherited. Math proficiency is incorrectly attributed to parent’s ability, anomalies in superior intellect and gender or racial stereotypes.
All of this, to pacify the nagging voice of our math teachers reminding us that, like most things in life, math is a subject that one must be practice to become better at. Sadly it is much easier to blame math - the cognitive load boogyman, for being inherently too difficult rather than realize critical thinking requires practice.
Finding a solution for the math anxiety problem
I began my research looking into math anxiety and found that there was a negative correlation between math anxiety and performance in my math courses - a higher level of math anxiety predicted a lower performance grade on assessments.
After confirming this correlation, I determined, through surveying my students, that those with high math anxiety were avoiding experiences that would help them to get better at math. Reflecting the same behavior mentioned in some seminal research done on math anxiety, my students were avoiding homework and outside practice because, outside of the classroom, they had no confidence in their ability to do math.
At this point I looked into creating a flipped classroom in an attempt to boost my students confidence outside of class with video tutorials and instructional aid. I planned to create tutorials students access anytime, particularly outside of class, then monitor their math practice in the classroom with critical thinking, guided notes taking and repetitive drill/kill style exercises.
I saw my students getting more practice, feeling more confident and more grateful that they had a resource they could turn to in my video tutorials. Changing the structure of my class from a traditional
lecture - notes - homework, format to a flipped, tutorial - lecture - notes - critical thinking - practice format reduced my students math anxiety and allowed them the confidence to get better at math.