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7 Steps to Overcome a Fear of Math When Starting Back to School

A lot of adult students experience math anxiety when faced with a math course after a long break.

But this anxiety is often just the dread of the unknown that is lurking out there. The fear you may have with math might not actually be due to math, but with test taking in general. Although this reaction emerges in your math class or on a test, it might not be caused by math itself.

Many students have a deep-seated fear of tests or doing math problems in general because of a bad experience struggling through a math class in high school.

But there is good news for adult students enrolled in online degree programs. There is hope!

Remember, math is just another general education course. You don't need to be intimidated or dread the math class you need as a prerequisite. Here are seven steps to help overcome a fear of math:

1. Use online resources.

The Khan Academy is a great resource. It boasts a library of more than 2,700 videos, which cover everything from arithmetic to finance, physics and history, and 255 practice exercises, all in easily-accessed video form. These videos and exercises can be valuable tools to overcome your fear of math, comprehend the concepts faster and retain them longer. The Khan Academy's resources are available to any student, regardless of age or education level, free of charge. Use this valuable tool as review or preparation before starting in your college math course.

2. Have a positive attitude.

A positive attitude makes it easier to avoid worry and negative thinking. With a positive attitude you see the bright side of life, become optimistic about your future and expect the best. It is a state of mind that is certainly well worth developing.

3. Ask questions.

When taking math classes, it is important to take advantage of the faculty you have at your fingertips. Ask for clear illustrations, demonstrations and/or simulations of the content and stay on it until you feel comfortable to move on. Don't settle for anything less during instruction.

4. Practice regularly.

Math is made up of rules, processes and procedures. When a bit of practice is done every day, the processes become very clear. It's a lot like cooking. We must add the right ingredients at just the right time and in the right order. Then we can create something delicious, and it tends to get better with a bit of practice.

5. Work with a tutor.

Work with a tutor or other students that understand the course content when you are struggling or when complete understanding escapes you. Most online universities, including Grantham University, have tutors available to support you in your education.

6. Don't just read your notes over and over.

This is really a reinforcement of tip number four. To make sure you really understand the procedures and feel comfortable solving certain math problems, you need to practice doing them. Once you believe you understand the concept, do another problem. Then do another one. Then one more for good measure.

7. Take a refresher course.

(This is an extra tip added from a reader's comment.) If you're apprehensive about your required math courses, speak with your academic advisor about taking a refresher math course first to brush up on your skills.

Following these seven simple tips can math less stressful, and maybe even fun and entertaining.

Contributor Michael Erwin is the Dean of Curriculum and Publishing at Grantham University.

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