*Transparency Item: **The Perspectives section of the Graphic is comprised of articles based on opinion. This is the opinion and perspective of the writer.*

Math has never been my favorite subject, but something about it continues to fascinate me. Growing up, I didn’t quite hate math classes or consider myself afraid of them, but I experienced a level of frustration that I didn’t feel with my other classes.

It wasn’t that I was incapable of figuring it out, but solving math problems always took more intention and time than studying for English or history classes. I think I resented that math wasn’t easy for me, so I often described myself as “bad at math” or “not a math person.”

Recently, I have become less irritated with math itself and more irritated with the fact that I don’t know very much about it. I wasn’t very interested in retaining even the practical skills I learned in math classes, and many of them are long forgotten.

The only math-related courses I’ve felt confident in involved statistics or chemistry. The emphasis on practical applications and research appealed to me, and most formulas and problems were fairly easy for me to understand.

Not every domain of math is unpleasant for me, and this realization has led me to wonder about the benefits of learning math independently. I think the added pressure of time constraints, grading and evaluation from peers and teachers creates an atmosphere of anxiety for many students.

Especially in a subject like math, which is difficult for many people to learn quickly, I think the association of math with fear is common. It may be helpful for such people to revisit the subject with a healthier mindset.

I’ve called myself “bad at math” many times, but because I no longer take math, this seems like a useless label. The label is also subject to change with circumstances, as it did for me when I took chemistry and realized math is not always difficult for me.

One individual might struggle with physics but thrive in advanced trigonometry. Everybody learns differently, so the idea that a person is generally “good” or “bad” at math can be somewhat inaccurate.

After college, I won’t necessarily have time to practice physics problems, but I think brushing up on forgotten skills might be useful. Lately, I have been revisiting Khan Academy’s free resources for students, and I find the material much more engaging when there’s no stress attached to it.

Research from Frontiers in Psychology demonstrates that students who experience less stress as they complete math problems are more likely to judge themselves as competent in the subject, and subsequently perform better. Math anxiety, on the other hand, is correlated with lower math self-efficacy and lower scores.

With all this in mind, I am also of the opinion that some changes to math education could increase student math self-efficacy. Letting go of the perception that I can’t do math was crucial for me to consider returning to it.

Educational interventions to raise math self-efficacy could help students overcome potential barriers to engaging with it. Math is an important element of problem-solving and critical thinking, and I think students would benefit from pedagogy that nurtures curiosity as opposed to stress.

I don’t know that I will ever call myself a “math person,” and it isn’t necessary that I get to that point, but I have started to look at math in a different light. I anticipate that I will still get annoyed at my weaknesses in it, but it appears like less of an obstacle and more of an opportunity to challenge myself.

Most people are greatly affected by the way they are taught subjects in school, but not all of these ideas have to influence students forever. Instead of accepting that math is impossible for me, perhaps it will be more helpful to approach it with a more open mind.

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Contact Alyssa Johnson via email: alyssa.johnson@pepperdine.edu