Coping with maths anxiety


This is an article on the Straits Times on children who experience difficulty learning mathematics.

The highlight of the article are the words of Dr Mighton, who is an expert on math learning and has a PhD in Mathematics from the University of Toronto.

This is a highly recommended book that he wrote:

The Myth of Ability: Nurturing Mathematical Talent in Every Child

The following is from the Straits Times (see link above):

I knew we were in trouble when my son looked uncomprehendingly at me, then nodded slowly.

I had been trying for several futile minutes to explain, in growing decibels, the solution to a maths problem sum. Finally, I snapped in frustration: “So do you get it or not?”

He obviously did not, but was scared of admitting it lest it fuelled my irritation.

The most reassuring words come from Dr John Mighton, a former maths tutor in Toronto who went on to develop Jump (Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies) Math as a charity in 2001. Its website offers free teaching guides and lesson plans for educators and parents.

Everyone, he says, can learn maths at a very high level, to the point where they can do university-level maths courses.

His Jump Math curriculum, based on breaking things down into minute steps to slowly build confidence, bears this out. It has yielded impressive results in some Canadian and British schools, which adopted the programme for students who struggled the most with maths.

Dr Mighton, who is also a playwright and author, designed Jump Math based on his own experience. He nearly failed his first-year calculus course, but trained himself to break down complicated tasks and practise them until he got the hang of things. He went on to do a PhD in mathematics at the University of Toronto.


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