Battling Maths Anxiety with… Snakes?

Battling Maths Anxiety with… Snakes?

Snakes. Who loves them? Certainly not me. Merely thinking about them quickens my pulse. Yet, there I was, immersed in a half-hour conversation about snake species, their care, and breeding. The whole experience kept me on edge.

Maths anxiety or snake anxiety, same fear! Battling Maths Anxiety
Maths Anxiety or snake anxiety?

The conversation partner? A Neurodiverse student of mine with a passion for these slithery reptiles yet plagued with a crippling fear of maths. We were studying pie charts when the topic of pets arose and derailed our mathematical journey. Though I have been able to connect and establish a reasonable rapport with her over her impressive artistic talents, I knew nothing about her love of reptiles until then. It wasn’t something that I knew meant so much to her until now. I wish I had previously known, but at least I do now…

So, we veered off the beaten path from maths, diving into a flurry of details about her beloved pets, something I wouldn’t have ordinarily explored due to my fear of them. It was a remarkable role reversal: Her Maths Anxiety was replaced by my snake anxiety.

I shared my fears openly, to which she responded with empathy. The classroom dynamic shifted. Instead of my usual position as the numbers expert and her the anxious learner, we traded places. In the digital landscape of our Zoom classroom, she was now the authority, confidently sharing her wealth of knowledge on snakes.

Seeing her enthusiastically be able to talk about something she knows so much about was so good for her mental well-being, and I could almost see her swelling with pride as she explained her snakes to me.

Traditional classroom constraints would have dictated a rigid return to the pie charts lesson, sacrificing this organic, human connection vital for a nurturing educational atmosphere.

If we were in a traditional classroom setting, I would have been forced to refocus the conversation, sticking rigidly to the lesson on pie charts. Sacrificing this organic, human connection vital for a nurturing educational atmosphere.

In a traditional evaluation, this detour would have been seen as a failure to adhere to the lesson plan and a perceived lack of student progress within the lesson.

However, the beauty of education outside of a typical classroom is the freedom to adapt to the student’s needs at any given moment. In this case, that meant discussing snakes.

This incident was a humbling experience. It offered me a renewed perspective on my students’ fears and anxieties when they grapple with the daunting world of maths – years of feeling out of depth, self-conscious among peers, and fearful of numbers.

As an educator, my role extends beyond merely teaching Maths. It’s about empowering students, fortifying their self-esteem, and shaping a conducive mental framework for them to learn effectively.

With the trust we’ve established through our snake conversation, I believe she will be more relaxed and engaged in the next lesson. Investing half an hour discussing snakes – a small price to pay for such a meaningful outcome.

So bear in mind that: 

  1. An educator’s role extends beyond teaching the curriculum; it involves fostering rapport, understanding, and trust with students.
  2. Traditional classroom constraints often inhibit the formation of meaningful connections and understanding between teachers and students.
  3. Embracing students’ passions, even when they deviate from the lesson plan, can help boost their confidence and engagement.
  4. Sometimes, unconventional methods can lead to profound learning experiences and deepen the teacher-student relationship.
  5. Role reversal, wherein the student becomes the expert, can empower and benefit the student’s mental well-being.
  6. Educators should be adaptable and willing to step outside their comfort zone for the benefit of their students.

This is just one of the many concepts that I discuss in the two Maths Anxiety courses currently available. Why not take a look …

#mathsanxiety #snakeanxiety #fear #dyslexia #dyscalculia

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