August 21, 2020

Overcoming Math Anxiety

Math can be intimidating and sometimes confusing, especially when it’s been a while since your last math class. DAUS student, Myla La Poll, BA Social Science (Organizational Behavior and Change), draws from her experience to highlight tips for succeeding at math:

“How did I overcome my math anxiety?  It is important NOT to fall behind in math.  Do the math homework consistently and turn it in on time. If you cannot understand the concept, ask the professor and do the math problems until you can fully understand it. Do not move forward to the next concept until you have mastered the previous concept. If possible, try to skim or attempt the next homework assignment so you have an idea of what the professor will cover in class.  Be prepared to ask questions on homework that you did not understand.  

Also, having a math study group to do homework helps.  By explaining and teaching the concepts you know to others that don't help to reinforce what you have learned.  Of course, having a professor that cares about you learning and having fun made math more tolerable.”

We also asked a few of our math professors at the NYU SPS Division of Applied Undergraduate Studies (DAUS) to share their thoughts to help students overcome their anxieties surrounding this important subject. Here’s what they suggest:

  1. Be proactive in seeking help with the course materials by meeting with the professor or emailing your questions to the professor.

  2. Give the course a chance. Inform yourself about why the course is included in the curriculum: ask your professor, your academic advisor and your faculty mentor.

  3. Combat negative thinking. Lack of confidence can be a major impediment for students with math anxiety. Replace those negative thoughts (“I can’t do this”, “I’ve never been good at math”, “I won’t finish in time”) with confidence building affirmations (“I know this”, “I’m prepared”, “I can do this”).

  4. Focus during class. You and the professor must be on the same page while the lecture is in session.

  5. Take notes when you read the textbook and in class. Read your notes thoroughly before class. If you have any questions on the notes, highlight them and ask your professor.

  6. Meet your professor during office hours. Ask questions and seek study tips.

  7. Create a calendar that lists all of your classes and include time to study for each class. Check your math syllabus for your professor’s recommendations about expected hours of study for the course.

  8. Practice problem solving. The goal is to understand, not to memorize.

  9. Schedule appointments with DAUS math tutors. DAUS offers free tutoring services for students in DAUS math classes.


DAUS math faculty who contributed to this article include Donatella Delfino, Penka Marinova, Joyce Brandon, Glenn Long, Jian Liu, Omar Chakhtoun, Zuo Bin Tang, JungHang Lee, and Sam Hussey.


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