Thursday, January 21, 2016

Math Anxiety

     Recent comments from a friend describing anxiety that seems to freeze his attempts to understand and use a new mathematical concept have caused me to recall and dig out this old poem -- and, by recalling it, to increase my understanding of my friend. 

     The Math Teacher's Golf Lesson     by JoAnne Growney

     My practice swing was perfect --  slow start, easy
     acceleration through the ball to finish high.
     "Beautiful," he said.  "It's time to hit a few."
     I addressed a ball and settled down and swung --
     and missed.  "Concentrate," he said.  I squinted

     and tried harder, hit the sod with a thud
     behind the dimpled ball.  "Step back," he said.  
    Again I executed my perfect practice swing.

     When I stepped up to the ball, I missed again.
     My teacher walked away to coach another
     more promising than I.  "You're afraid of the ball,"
     he said.  "Can't you help me not to be?" I pled.

     My students tremble whenever "x" appears.

     To help them, I remember -- I'm afraid of the ball.

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