Wrestling with Pythagorus: How I Conquered Math Anxiety

Blog on conquering math anxiety

Sophia Apolinario, Notre Dame de Namur University student

In high school, I was one of the top 15 students in my graduating class, but ironically, I was probably the worst at math. Going into college at Notre Dame de Namur University as a Communication major, I was really excited to finally kiss the subject goodbye.

With luck by my side, I passed the university’s math placement test and was required to take only one math class during my four years of study. The class was Math and Life, basically an accumulation of all the math you dreaded in high school.

I was thinking, Oh, no, back to trigonometry we go, with my anxiety skyrocketing. I knew that another C in math would affect my dream of graduating college summa cum laude. Yes, as a freshman I was already thinking of how one class could affect my chances of being an honor student!

I’d heard about the NDNU Student Success Center, where students are tutored on campus, but I’d never actually been there. I was on the way to the cafeteria one day when I stumbled across the center. That’s when I met the senior Computer Science major Tej who ended up becoming my math guardian angel. I made it a habit to utilize this free campus resource for tutoring every Tuesday and Thursday after math class.

More than Tej’s expertise in math, her teaching style helped me understand math in a way I never had before. Not only did she want me to ace the class, but she wanted me to grow and see the logic behind Pythagorus’ a2 + b2 = c2. I would have made my high school math teacher proud with what I learned from Tej.

We built not only a professional relationship but also a personal one, as she guided me through my first semester in college and gave me some tips. I was a commuter student and she helped me feel secure that I was not missing out by living at home my first few years. I even told two of my classmates about the Student Success Center, and they also started coming to Tej for math tutoring. The three of us who studied with Tej all became close friends.

By the end of my first semester, I was one of the top students in my math class, earning a high A. I remember running across my house yelling, “Mom!!! It’s literally a miracle!!!” and hugging her as if I had just won the lottery.

That is what I love about NDNU, how the professors and tutors not only want you to ace your classes but really see the deeper meaning behind the theories and lectures. They want to see you bloom and guide you every step of the way—both personally and professionally.

Sophia Apolinario is a senior Communication major at Notre Dame de Namur University who grew up in Manila in the Philippines. She plans to work in communications after graduation.

For more information on applying to Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU), please visit the admissions page.

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