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Tween and teen

How to Help Your Child Overcome Their Fear of Math

Five tips to reduce anxiety and set children up for a lifelong appreciation of the subject.

By John Bianchette

How to Help Your Child Overcome Their Fear of Math

Photo: iStockphoto

Returning to school can help bring a positive and structured routine back into your child's life, but it can also bring a lot of fear and anxiety—specifically when it comes to math class. While anxiety towards the subject can be a barrier to learning, an optimistic approach from parents can set children up for a lifelong appreciation of math.

In the United States, students’ fear of math is accelerating, according to a recent survey conducted by Cuemath–approximately 82% of students between Grades 7 and 10 struggle with apprehension around math learning. This is especially concerning when paired with the results of the newly released Nation’s Report Card from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) which shows an alarming decline in math scores—the lowest in decades.

Below are five ways to help your child become more comfortable and overcome their fear of math:

Normalize talking about math at home

One of the best ways to support your child through their math journey is to talk about the importance of the subject—not just for this school year, but for anything they want to pursue in the future. Every so often, ask them how it’s going and invite them to share with you what they’re learning. If your child is resistant to these discussions, engage in math exercises as you go about your daily activities such as grocery shopping, watching sports or walking the dog around the neighborhood. Examples include:

  • Counting things around the house (Lego, books, number of doors)
  • Playing games that are math and number-oriented
  • Talking about fractions when you’re cooking—practice doubling and halving ingredients in a recipe
  • Working together to calculate change at the store
  • Estimating how long it will take to drive somewhere
little girl sitting at a table working on homework iStock

Seek math help together

It may have been a long time since you studied math, and the techniques may have changed over time. Remember that when you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s perfectly fine to say so. Looking up the process together and finding out how to solve a problem will teach your child that it’s normal and helpful to ask questions.

For specific, more persistent challenges in your child's math journey, consider hiring or enrolling them in supplemental education with a tutor or program that has a history of setting children on the right path toward academic success.

Work on their foundation

Instead of exclusively focusing on today’s homework, recognize that math anxiety often stems from weak foundational skills. With your patience, your child will learn that building a strong knowledge of math takes consistent and conscious effort. If they have a lot going on during the school year, it can be easy to let grades and progress reports go unnoticed.

However, it's important to check in with your child often so any problem areas can be addressed right away. To stay in the loop, find out from your child’s teacher when grades will be posted and mark the dates on your calendar.

A mother doing work at the kitchen table with her two children doing their homework Photo: iStock/vgajic

Foster a relationship with their teacher

Instead of questioning the teacher’s methodology or motives in front of your child, urge them to develop a positive relationship with their math teacher. Many children are intimidated by authority figures, but once they understand their teacher truly wants to help them, they will be more relaxed and able to learn effectively. As a parent, it's important for you to create a positive foundation with your child’s math teacher.

You’re much more likely to hear about how your child is doing if you open up the lines of communication early. Introduce yourself at the first opportunity and let them know that you welcome their input on your child’s progress. Being on familiar terms with the teacher makes it easier to approach them if you have any questions or concerns at any time during the school year.

Develop a growth mindset

Success in rote memorization and quick calculation does not mean your child understands the fundamentals of how math works. Encourage your child to tackle math challenges and pursue different paths to solve a problem. Making mistakes along the way is part of the learning process! You can give your child a real advantage by simply paying attention to warning signs before they become real problems.

If they’re having a hard time with the homework, make sure that they are doing it in a clean, comfortable workspace free of distractions. If you notice that they’re struggling with a particular concept, make sure they get the help they need to master it right away.

Through applying these techniques to your child’s everyday life, you may be able to help them develop confidence in their knowledge of math concepts, which in turn, will get them excited about learning again. By addressing your child’s need for extra help, you’re opening doors to higher achievement and helping them reach their full potential.

Author:

John Bianchette, Vice President of Education and Training of Mathnasium – responsible for developing the curriculum of mathematics that is being taught across the globe in over 1,100 learning centers.

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