Before we can help our children overcome math anxiety, we must first address any negative feelings that we, as parents, have on the subject. If you have said things in the past like, “I’m not good at math,” or “I don’t like math,” remember that your child is learning this attitude from you. Communicating your discomfort with math may not only increase your child’s anxiety, it could also lower their success and confidence.
This doesn’t mean you need to suddenly change how you feel. According to Sian Beilock, a cognitive scientist and president of Barnard College, parents don’t have to overcome their own math anxiety in order to help their child succeed, as long as they change their attitude about it.
Convey a different attitude to your child
It’s easier than you think, and it makes a world of difference!
Instead of saying you’re “not a math person,” engage in math activities with your child that you both can enjoy. There are all kinds of fun ways to do this. Count things around the house, like Legos, books and number of doors. Play games that are math- and number-oriented, like Ticket to Ride, Connect Four, Set, Sumoku and Monopoly. Let your child see how you use math in everyday life. Talk about fractions when you’re cooking, and practice doubling and halving ingredients in a recipe. Work together to calculate change at the store or estimate how long it will take to drive somewhere. It’s all math!
Instead of becoming frustrated when your child’s math book confuses you, go easy on yourself. It may have been a long time since you studied math, and the books and techniques may have changed several times. Remember that when you (or your child) don’t know the answer to a question, it’s OK to say so. According to Dr. Matthew Pagirsky, a neuropsychologist at the Child Mind Institute, saying “I don’t know” can actually reduce anxiety about having the “right” answers. Better yet, he suggests, say, “Let’s look it up together and find out.”
Instead of focusing exclusively on today’s homework, recognize that math anxiety often stems from weak foundational skills.
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