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It used to be common wisdom that books on improving memory or mathematical ability were bound to sell because most people feel inadequate in both areas. After a lull, we now have two books on how to cope with math anxiety by writers who know and respect each other (see Kogelman & Warren, above). Sheila Tobias writes from the point of view of the victim. A former official of Wesleyan University, an active feminist, and a good writer, she discusses the psychological, educational, and cultural phenomena which have conspired to make math such a turnoff, especially for women. She is distressed that without a good base in mathematics many women have curtailed career options. She concludes that the evidence that women are genetically more verbal and men more spatial-relations oriented is scanty, and that factors such as kinds of toys chosen, athletic activities, motivation, parent and teacher attitudes are major variables which affect math ability in both sexes, but in general create greater difficulties for women. A group therapy approach with individuals airing their feelings and tracing their thoughts when confronted with a mathematical problem has been used, with evident success, to overcome anxiety. Tobias goes a step further, almost to the point of the convert. Not only is she no longer a math avoider, she wants the reader to understand many of the stickier points that led to feelings of hopelessness in the past--including why you invert the divisor and multiply when performing division of fractions. She also introduces the important concepts of calculus. The message is clear and well-taken. Be of good cheer ye who are laden with mathematical guilts. Hope and help is only a math clinic or a book or two away.

Pub Date: Sept. 7th, 1978
ISBN: 0393035778
Publisher: Norton