The Math Anxiety Bill of Rights

A friend told me that this “Bill of Rights” is posted on my college campus somewhere. I found it online, and since I really seem to be part of the movement for the rights of the math-anxious, I post it here.

If you’re reading this for moral support, keep in mind that there’s a whole segment of the student population that doesn’t do so well in math but that still has to learn “the alphabet of science” in order to become doctors, science writers, researchers, etc. You are not alone in having to do math, and doing it badly. Math anxiety happens everywhere, from arithmetic to calculus.

Power to the math-anxious people! We shall overcome!

The Math Anxiety Bill of Rights

(taken from Overcoming Math Anxiety by Sheila Tobias)

  • I have the right to learn at my own pace and not feel put down or stupid if I’m slower than someone else.
  • I have the right to ask whatever questions I have.

  • I have the right to need extra help.
  • I have the right to ask a teacher or tutor for help.
  • I have the right to say I don’t understand.
  • I have the right not to understand.
  • I have the right to feel good about myself regardless of my abilities in math.
  • I have the right not to base my self-worth on my math skills.
  • I have the right to view myself as capable of learning math.
  • I have the right to evaluate my math instructors and how they teach.
  • I have the right to relax.
  • I have the right to be treated as a competent adult.
  • I have the right to dislike math.
  • I have the right to define success in my own terms.

*****

I have the right to learn at my own pace and not feel put down or stupid if I’m slower than someone else.

Or everyone else. I realize that my classmates may learn more quickly, and may be impatient and unkind. Should I see them again in chemistry class, I shall have my revenge.

I have the right to ask whatever questions I have.

And I had better ask them. Which makes you feel worse: to ask a stupid question or to fail an exam?

I have the right to need extra help.

For God’s sake, use the math lab.

I have the right to say I don’t understand.
I have the right not to understand.

When I am at the end of my rope from frustation I will call on the people who love and understand me to give me pep talks. Teachers, BTW, are sometimes surprisingly willing to pep-talk a student.

I have the right to feel good about myself regardless of my abilities in math.

It’s not like there’s nothing I do well. I have my own place(s) where I have confidence and skill. I am more than who I am in the math classroom.

I have the right to evaluate my math instructors and how they teach.

Not every teacher is a good teacher. Not every teacher is a kind teacher. Not every teacher is a patient teacher. My teacher’s flaws and foibles are not my fault.

I have the right to relax.

And I had better exercise it. If you don’t take your vacations, your vacations will take you.

I have the right to dislike math.

Or to love it, but have it confound me nonetheless.

I have the right to define success in my own terms.

And to remember that one day my studies will all be behind me.

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