Anxiety, Math and Working Memory
Beilock and Willingham recently wrote a review on math anxiety in the American Educator:
|To read the review, visit the American Educator|
The strategies that have been developed to help children appreciate what really goes on in arithmetic are definitely appealing to those who already understand a lot about mathematics. Those among us who know by heart the multiples of nine can easily recognize that the sum of the digits for any of these multiples is nine. We can easily see this because we know that the multiples of nine are 9, 18, 27, 36, 45, 54, 63, 72, 81 and 90. In fact, we could even see that when the multiples are arranged in increasing order (like the one above), as the digit in the tens' place goes up by one, the digits in the ones' place goes down by one. Perhaps, we can even explain why the sum of the digits in any of these multiples is nine. Any one of these multiples can be described by (x - 1) in the tens place and (10 - x) in the ones places, where the multiple is 9x. So when we add the digits, we are in fact adding (x - 1) to (10 - x), which of course sums up to 9. One reason why this may seem easy and insightful for us is the fact that our minds are no longer bothered by figuring out what the multiples of nine are. Arithmetic have already been permanently stored in our minds therefore neither adding nor multiplying require anything from our working memory. Having these procedures done almost mindlessly, our minds' working memory can therefore be devoted to other higher and more complicated tasks. Teaching math therefore requires that a teacher be tuned to the needs of each and every student. With a changing curriculum that emphasizes higher thinking, parents may need to ensure first that their children already have a strong background in basic mathematics before starting school. Of course, teachers may also need to work on helping their students master arithmetic first before going into a deeper discussion of how arithmetic works.