Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fear of maths is a problem worth solving

According to researchers at the University of Granada, 6 out of every 10 university students present "mathematical anxiety". This study was carried out in a sample consisting of 885 first-year students from 23 different degrees given at the UGR which include the subject of Mathematics, both compulsory and core. The sample included four of the five university fields of study: Health Sciences, Experimental Sciences, Technical Education and Social Sciences. The conclusion is that many students choose 3rd level courses different to those they preferred - and in which they would be really good in many cases – in order to avoid studying subjects connected with Mathematics. Clearly there needs to be some help with math at an early stage in life to avoid this anxiety and help people get comfortable with maths.

At first this may not appear as such a big issue for Computer Programming, particularly as the majority of the software development emphasis is on business rather than scientific solutions. It may be obvious, but it has to be pointed out that one of the key residual benefits from studying to solve math problems is the development of problem solving skills. While many of us , years later, may rarily use the algebra we study in school, the process of breaking down a problem into it's constituent parts stays with us when we go out into the real world. Where problems have vague specifications. Where there is more than one way to solve a problem. Where you run into problems you have never seen before.

There is free online math help available. To name just a couple there is:

  • http://www.math.com
  • http://www.mathway.com

Also there is a great book called Maths: A Student's Survival Guide which will be valued particularly by those who need to make up a deficiency in a specific topic or to remove the rust from their mathematics. If all this is too much to start working on your own mathematical anxiety then consider chocolate. At least you'll get something out of it!

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