We've written about math anxiety on this blog before—how it can be brought on by early negative math experiences and, more recently, its link to genetic factors. Research says math anxiety can lead to a decrease in working memory and that girls taught by a female teacher with high math anxiety are more likely to endorse gender-related stereotypes about math ability. (The same is not true for boys.)
But what does all this mean for the math classroom? What can teachers do to combat math anxiety, whether or not they have it themselves?
Psychology professors Sian L. Beilock of the University of Chicago and Daniel T. Willingham of the University of Virginia have some ideas. Writing in the latest issue of American Educator, a publication by the American Federation of Teachers, they offer recommendations based on their research, including:
The second suggestion—to scrap timed math tests—is much more controversial than it may seem. Remember those timed multiplication tests you took in elementary school—the large grid of problems you had one or two or three minutes to work your way through? Many teachers not only still give those, but consider them a staple of good math instruction. See the mix of comments below this Education Week Commentary piece in which Jo Boaler, a math education professor at Stanford University, similarly called for their elimination.
Jo Boaler is a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Education and the CEO and co-founder of Youcubed.
Read an article on Jo Boaler and her new online math courses.
See a video with Jo Boaler on Common Core Math.