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It’s no secret that many children and adults alike struggle with math anxiety. A recent study from the University of Cambridge reported teachers and parents may actually be unintentionally influencing children’s attitude toward math.
While every child is different and has different needs, researchers found several commonalities among primary and secondary students. Throughout the interview process during the study, students claimed they were confused by the different teaching methods, as well as poor interpersonal relationships with teachers. Secondary students also stated the transition from primary to secondary had been difficult and likely caused much of their math anxiety. They not only had a noticeably bigger workload, but they also had to work harder to deal with the increased pressures from tests, particularly the SATs. Unsurprisingly, students had tougher time learning how to cope.
One of the most interesting discoveries from the study is the realization that math anxiety does not necessarily mean the student has low grades. In fact, 77% of children with major math anxiety have average grades or higher on their math tests. Because of this, teachers and parents may not always be able to see the signs the child is struggling with anxiety.
Math anxiety begins at a young age, and the effects of it can be permanent if not tackled early on. Not only do the effects include lower confidence and motivation, but math anxiety can also encourage gendered stereotypes about math suitability and ability. The study also showed girls tend to be more affected than boys.
While teachers need to be aware that a student’s anxiety may affect his or her academic performance, both teachers and parents need to be conscious of their own math anxiety. Addressing their own anxieties is the first step to helping their children become better students.
Children aren’t born hating math. They develop their anxiety from unique origins and triggers, but we can prevent their intimidation from math from taking over their lives and affecting their future. If our children grow up with a fear of math, their fear can keep students away from STEM careers. They won’t be able to target their anxieties and eventually influence their own children, leading to an unfortunate cycle.
If your child has math anxiety or struggles with his or her confidence, visit your local Mathnasium center for a risk-free assessment and free consultation. Our goal is to help make math make sense for all students, raise their confidence in themselves, and rid them of their anxiety and fear toward math.
Source: University of Cambridge. "Origins and nature of 'math anxiety'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 March 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190314075758.htm>.