Do you get anxious when dividing restaurant bills or calculating tips? Did you choose your college major based on how little math you could get by with and still graduate? Does hearing the word “algebra” make you queasy? You may have “Math Anxiety,” a fear of failure that math students all over the world experience.

Today, most careers and professions require demonstrated proficiency in at least college-level math. For Amador College Connect students, one or two courses in math may be part of their general education requirements for an A.A. degree or a requirement for some professional certificates. Fortunately, free math tutoring is available through Amador College Connect.

Math Anxiety is the term used to describe feelings of tension and anxiety that interfere with one’s ability to do math. Math Anxiety can cause a student to forget what he or she already knows and lose self confidence.

Howard Webb and Maureen Angle are two of Amador College Connect’s volunteer math tutors. Webb and Angle agree that although some people may seem to have a natural aptitude for math, competence is gained through practice. Like music and foreign languages, the best way to learn and overcome anxiety is to persist through practice.

Webb, a retired junior high math teacher, explains that “anyone can push out the envelope of their knowledge through persistence.” As an example, he points to one of his Amador College Connect students who mastered math through diligence and

persistence. “He had a terrific study style. He would do the assigned homework as well as he could, then meet with me to cover difficulties. THEN he would go to class for the classroom lecture. He was very prepared for every lecture.” Webb explains that this student had failed at math in high school but in college he put in the necessary time in an organized manner and it paid off.

Angle, a retired high school math and science teacher, agrees that persistence and practice are key. She shares that “some people do seem to have a natural understanding of mathematical thinking. But I think anyone can get a good feel for math processes if they just relax and think about what the numbers and symbols mean or represent.” She adds, “Also, practicing while learning is useful.”

As for Math Anxiety, Webb explains that for such students, “an encouraging tutor is a must.” He also advises that students who are worried about passing math consider lightening their course load in order to have extra time to practice. “Don’t get behind,” he cautions, “Being behind builds in tension and fear and people cannot be logical if their limbic system has kicked in.”

Webb can relate to students with Math Anxiety as he was not always confident in math. He shares that repetition and persistence were how he eventually made it through calculus in college. In high school he struggled to get Cs in math and was surprised when he was placed in a calculus class his freshman year in college. He was only able to manage a D his first semester. His college required that he earn a C or better to proceed with his studies; so, he repeated the class. “In repeating that class it all clicked, and I became a confident, capable math student.”

Angle also sympathizes with the struggles many Amador College Connect students face, juggling family and job commitments with school work. After marrying and starting a family, Angle returned to college in her mid-30s and completed three successive programs: a B.A. in Liberal Studies; a Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential; and a Master’s in Teaching Science. “It was stressful,” she says but adds, “the time and trouble that I spent taking different classes and completing my degrees over time helped my family economically and gave me a genuine sense of accomplishment.”

If you are interested in learning more about math tutoring through Amador College Connect, call the office at 209-217-8239.

Amador College Connect always welcomes new volunteer mentors and tutors. If you are interested in volunteering, contact Janice Davis at janice@amadorcollegeconnect.org.

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