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Tips on preparing for college-level mathematics

maths anxiety
Maths anxiety involves feelings of tension and worry in situations involving math-related activities. Source: Shutterstock

Students who are not in maths-focused majors such as engineering or actuarial science may face maths anxiety over college-level maths. International students, particularly, may worry over passing their maths requirements, especially if they’re planning to study in a host country where the education system is vastly different.

Many people avoid the subject because they feel they aren’t good at it; as a result, they face maths anxiety because they fear failing the subject, which interferes with their performance.

The truth is, there are ways to overcome maths anxiety. If you don’t want it to prevail in college, check out these tips to prepare yourself for maths classes at the university level.

maths anxiety

There are ways to overcome maths anxiety. Source: Frederick Florin/AFO

Master the basics to beat maths anxiety

Many students can’t escape maths when they enter university, even if they’re majoring in the Humanities or Liberal Arts, as the majority of programmes have a maths requirement. If you’ve always struggled with maths in school, you might find it even harder when you take a college-level class as you haven’t got a strong foundation in the subject.

But maths isn’t impossible if you’re willing to put in the work. Students often find the subject to be tedious or difficult because they haven’t taken the time to understand the formulas and principles, and mastered the basics.

Depending on different teaching styles, some students may not be able to grasp the basics the first time around. This leads to maths anxiety because the next level builds on that foundation, and if you don’t have a solid grasp on it, you’re left behind and can find yourself struggling for the remainder of the course.

In college, you’re typically expected to know the basics, so some classes (such as statistics) will start right off the bat without covering them. The professor will assume that you have prepared for these sorts of classes in your school years when you probably only just scraped by.

If you’ve found that you haven’t quite got the basics of a certain maths class down, get a tutor or a friend to help you really nail down the basics before you start the course. There are also free online resources, such as the Khan Academy, to help you get your basics up to scratch. Make sure to practice regularly so the basics are ingrained in your mind.

Take a more challenging maths class

If you’re taking certain classes prior to studying abroad (such as those in a twinning programme who are transferring credit later), or you have the chance to do so in high school, consider taking a maths class that challenges you.

This may sound odd, but it makes sense. According to US News, “If you are comfortable with and passionate about math, you might opt for AP Calculus AB or AP Calculus BC. If you are uncertain about math, regular-track trigonometry may meet your needs. The most important element to keep in mind is that the class you choose should challenge you and stretch your skills without sacrificing your GPA.”

maths anxiety

Study maths effectively so you can ace that requirement and get through class without stressing too much about it. Source: Martin Bureau/AFP

Familarise yourself with the concepts

Do you already know what Math course you will be taking? Most universities require all students to take a maths requirement, regardless of major.

But the level of maths will differ depending on your course. For psychology students, for example, you may be required to take Psychological Statistics. Business students may be required to take Business Calculus or Business Mathematics.

If you can already anticipate what class you will need to take, spend some time getting to know the subject. Look online for free maths tutorials, or check out some textbooks to get a feel for it.

You may be relieved to know that the course content is not as difficult as you thought. Or, you may be able to identify which sections you are not familiar with and can prepare yourself in advance to tackle them.

You can also ask your friends or peers who have taken the course before and see if they can give you any advice. By planning in advance and looking ahead, you can reduce some of your maths anxiety, rather than going into the class not knowing what to expect.