Scared of Math? 5 Considerations to Overcome Math Anxiety

5 Considerations to Overcome Math Anxiety

By Todd Siben

Concerned about the math requirements in your degree? Perhaps it’s been 20 years - or more - since you studied math. Depending on your degree program, fulfilling your math requirement may not be as difficult as you think.

Consider Fit

First consider the degree you have chosen and the math requirement for that degree. Ask yourself, "Have I chosen a degree appropriate for my own ability?" For example, since you haven't studied math in almost 20 years, your math skills may be rusty. Perhaps the last math you studied was algebra, and you passed, but barely. Now you've chosen a degree that requires calculus I and II.

Taking that calculus course may require that you first refresh your algebra skills. Then you'll be better prepared to take the next logical sequence of courses. Math is taught in logical sequences, with concepts built upon previously learned concepts.

Consider Your Comfort Level

According to College mentors Ildy and Csaba Boer, "it is better to start with a lower-level math course even if it doesn't fulfill your degree needs. Students who lack basics often do not succeed when taking a course above their level. Instead of dropping down to a lower-level course, they repeat the higher-level course again, unsuccessfully, wasting both their money and time."

Consider Your Assets

As a self-directed, mature student, perhaps you are better prepared to study math now than you were years ago. You are more analytical, more disciplined and more driven toward degree completion. So, why be threatened by a math requirement?

Consider Your Degree

Some institutions require algebra for all degrees. Thomas Edison State College offers alternatives. If you have selected a liberal arts or human services degree, the math requirement can usually be satisfied with an "entry level" math such as MAT-105 Applied Liberal Arts Math. Although MAT-105 is a reasonable option, students often choose intermediate or college-level algebra because they've heard the word "algebra" before, so it seems more familiar than a course called "Applied Liberal Arts Math." This fear-of-the-unknown can result in the incorrect choice.

Perhaps you are pursuing a business degree that requires MAT-119 Quantitative Business Analysis. If you wait until the last few courses to complete this requirement, then find you are unable to pass the course and switch to a liberal arts degree with a lower math requirement, you may find that you now need additional credits to earn the new degree. This situation can often be avoided with a bit of advanced planning.

(Cue your advisor…)

Consider Your Options

Along with the many online math courses available to you, credit-by-exam programs such as CLEP and DSST standardized tests in math and statistics. Some investigate math courses by distance from other schools. Some students just prefer to take math as a classroom course at a local college whenever possible. Also consider that a statistics course can satisfy your math requirement for some degree programs.

Before you jump ahead and register for a math course, discuss the options with your advisor. In most cases, there are choices that will be a better fit for you, your learning style and your level of capability in math.

Ultimately the choice will not only have an impact on your success but on the amount of antacid and aspirin required to successfully complete the course. Choose wisely!



Written by Todd Siben

Todd is the Assistant Director of the Office of Portfolio Assessment and has been with the College for 26 years in a variety of roles. He earned an MA from Teachers College of Columbia University and a BA from Ramapo College of New Jersey. He is passionate about coaching and watching ice hockey (Go New York Rangers!) and playing the piano or guitar. Connect with him via email at


Topics: Taking Courses, Credit by Exam, Majors and Degree Programs

Posted Thursday, April 3, 2014