Rita D. Williams, Ph.D.
Math Giving You the Heebie Jeebies? Part 1
Updated: Dec 1, 2020
Our SEO, Sonya Scott, shared an interesting video of Dr. Sian Beilock talking about math anxiety, which Dr. Beilock defined as the fear or apprehension of doing math. I am an educator with vast experience in both teaching and providing professional development in mathematics. As such, I believe Dr. Beilock’s assertion that elementary school teachers experience high levels of math anxiety that they pass on to their students should be thoroughly examined and discussed.
For years, I have believed that only educators with mathematics degrees- or at least strong mathematical backgrounds- should teach mathematics. Each new year of mathematical learning is extended from concepts and skills attained in the previous year. Therefore, if students do not receive a firm foundation of number sense in grades K - 2, they can conceivably be at a deficit for the remainder of their computational career.
Elementary school teachers are certainly not to blame. As an undergraduate at FAMU, I majored in mathematics education and minored in elementary education. While I had to take numerous courses about mathematics I never even knew existed, the content among my major courses was related. However, the preservice requirements for elementary educators included courses in the four core areas as well as enrichment (i.e. art, music, physical education) fields. As the saying goes, a jack of all trades is typically a master of none. How can we expect our elementary school colleagues to be able to provide high levels of instruction in every subject under the sun? And why do we fail to offer content mastery professional learning for elementary school teachers to help fill in the inevitable gaps?
In my next blog entry, I will further explore this matter of math anxiety among some elementary school teachers and share some practical strategies to help confront the issue. Until we meet again, tell an elementary school educator how much you appreciate him/her. See you soon!