I described myself as a guinea pig after arriving at USC Aiken for a story and also a role in a new research project on the issue of math anxiety.
The assignment sounded pretty cool. Four USC Aiken and University of Wisconsin-Stout undergraduates are working on a research project to combat math anxiety – an issue all too familiar with many students. And me.
Last week I talked with psychology professor Dr. Keri Weed about it. As she explained the program, she mentioned they would begin formal assessments with volunteers on Monday.
I immediately asked if I could take part, as long as no X's and Y's were involved. Weed readily agreed, but I didn't find out what that meant until Monday, the first day of the project.
Formal assessments would begin with volunteers later that day, and I was the practice dummy. I then got ready to complete several exercises that would test my computation skills, and my ability to compare one set of numbers with another while retaining what I had seen on a screen.
At USCA, I was asked initially to answer how I would react as a student in a math class in terms of studying for a test, taking a test and more. In my desire to be honest, I checked “much” anxiety a lot and once with “very much” anxiety. During this process, electrodes on my right hand measured the sweat; I'm sure it was a lot.
Next, I had simple computations to complete. I got cocky, until things got a little more difficult – enough to lead to lots of anxiety. Sure enough, I knew I was sweating profusely, and I knew my left hand with the pen was shaking. That was shocking.
One of students hooked me up on the next station, examining my blood volume to see if I was using more or less energy. In that assignment, I was comparing objects in separate locations, determining if the numbers were the same or different. Then I had to quickly determine which objects were the same color or the same shape. No problems with either.
It didn't last. For my last task, I had to remember animals and other objects based on size after they were removed from the computer screen. When the number arrived at four and with new rules, I was hopelessly lost – overwhelmed with a level of anxiety that, again, startled me. Essentially, I gave up on that one.
Let's say I already knew about my battles with math, but to see it in front of me was interesting. If I have contributed to the ability of college students to get through math with less fear, then I have done my (very small) part.
Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.
STAFF PHOTO BY ROB NOVIT Efeoluwa Ekundayo attaches electrodes to Aiken Standard reporter Rob Novit to measure his math anxiety levels.×
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