I have a confession to make. I teach high school math and I have math anxiety. I HATE doing math in front of other people.
I think this stems from a few places.
1) I am horrible at mental math. I didn’t learn any kind of logical reasoning to go with mental calculations until I was in my early 20s. The day someone told me figuring out 15% tax was easy because you just had to figure out 10%, then halve it and then add the two together BLEW MY MIND. I think I was 23. At 23 I had already earned a university degree and was still trying to compute 15% mentally with no shortcut. It was around this same time when I started attending professional development that highlighted strategies young students could use to add/subtract numbers, and again, I was amazed. Simple things, like rounding up and then subtracting that number later (98 +47 = 100+47-2) had never even occurred to me. To this day my reflex is to try and line up numbers in my head and do all that really complicated carrying business. While I’m trying to do this, people inevitably look at me and say “You’re the math teacher.” Yes, yes I am. And I own a calculator.
2) I excel at school math. You know, the kind that involves a 5 step process. The kind that involves no creativity at all, that involves memory recall of what steps apply to a problem that looks similar. I excel enough that I can likely give you 2 or 3 options for how to solve any given problem and really explain to you why it works. I even really enjoy “complicated” school math, because arriving at that final answer after the tedious process appeals to me. (Disclaimer, I also really like things like filing paperwork and filling out excel spreadsheets. Repetition is soothing, victory is assured.)
3) I am a slow math thinker. This might be related to #1. When I do propose a hypothesis, it takes me quite awhile to feel it out to its logical (or illogical) end. There is nothing wrong with this, but often working in a group setting other members have already taken off. I need silent processing time – partially to make sure I actually understand what’s going on, partially because I like to make sure I don’t sound ridiculous when I do voice an idea.
The good news? I’m getting over it. It’s taken longer than expected given how okay I am with saying ridiculously wrong things in all other aspects of my life (of course, totally convinced that I am right as I say them), but it is better. It is something I do have to actively manage however. Luckily for me, managing my anxiety is much like a 5 step process, and I’m quite proficient at that!