There are countless studies on math anxiety, and it’s safe to say that the condition has reached epidemic levels. Research has shown that as many as 38% of students suffer from the affliction and that parents too are affected. There are also pieces of research, some of which we have covered, that suggest that math anxiety could be inherited. Since we are sure that you want your child to excel at math, here are some things you could do to prevent your children from developing the condition.
Do not speak negatively about math to your children
Math experts are critical of how common expressions like “I am bad at math” or “I am not a math person” have become. As parents, we have to stop making these phrases commonplace. If you do not know how to help with your child’s homework, you can just say “I don’t know.” Saying “I am not good with numbers” implies that you are born a certain way, and you can’t change it, which is not a message you want to pass down to someone with a rapidly evolving brain.
Bring math into your home in a fun way
Math is not just about cross-examining numbers on a piece of paper. There is math in cooking, driving, shopping, budgeting and even in nature. Make sure your children are aware of math in real life. There are also fun ways to practice math at home such as board games and cooking. If you have a moment, incorporate these activities into your household just to show your children that math is nothing to fear.
Build on basic skills
We know that math is chronological and letting one topic slide can lead to an overall descent. So ask your child’s teacher about the topics that they are struggling with, then go through the topic with them, slowly and from the beginning. Do not use a timer or any form of pressure. Your child should be encouraged to learn a topic at their own pace, without associating it with testing.
Take Care of Yourself
If your child brings home a particularly challenging task, that is making you anxious, try and deal with your own feelings. You don’t have to persevere with it and can ask the teacher or the Internet for help. If you are feeling calm enough to take the homework on, then you should. There is nothing like leading by example, and showing your child that you can rise to a challenge is one of the best lessons that you can give them.
Discuss math ability
Yes, some people will struggle more than others in math, just like some people will have an ear for music or be able to run faster, but that doesn’t mean that only fast runners should do marathons. Make sure that your child understands that with enough dedication they will eventually be good at math, and initial struggles are just part of the process.
These are just some ideas on breaking the cycle of math anxiety, but if any teachers or parents have further advice, we would love to hear from you.
Marina Gomer is a journalist and mother of two. She lives with her family in Sydney, Australia.