More adults than ever before are returning to formal education. Some want to learn what they have failed to learn in high school. Some have made the momentous decision to earn a high school diploma or to go to college for the first – or second or third – time. And some, particularly those in mid-life, want additional education in order to recharge a stalled career or start an entirely new one.
The growth of adult literacy programs, both online and community-based, has made it even more possible than ever for adults who want to learn to do so in the comfort of their own homes and communities. The decision to return to an educational environment brings with it expectations and fears, both real and imagined.
One of the more prevalent fears is math phobia. Math phobia is real, harmful and often reality-based. It is often based in one or more experiences in a person’s life which caused him pain, such as being ridiculed by powerful people or losing an important position or check now even a loved one because of a perceived deficit in mathematical ability. It is a serious impediment to success in the social and economic world we live in and it can devastate its victims by making it impossible to succeed in career searching or in solving problems of daily living.
Unlike language, which is heard, seen, spoken and used every day, or science, which is often taught a with hands-on approach, one does not often remember the finer points of a subject like geometry or trigonometry or algebra if they are not applied on a regular basis toward solving the practical problems of one’s life after leaving school. The fact that most math courses are taught in an abstract manner, often using mostly visual cues which are not concrete, makes it less likely for students who learn primarily by hearing or moving to remember techniques and principles.
While it often takes simply a jolt of courage and determination to return to studying math for literacy or for career advancement or for pleasure, there is help available to alleviate the pain of math phobia:
– Talking with a trusted friend about the fear is one way to proceed. People who harbor fear and do not share it are less likely to feel that it is possible to overcome the fear.
– Purchasing a book or video to be in control of the subject, literally to keep it under wraps until you are ready to look at it, gives a sense of mastery from the beginning.