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Get Anxious About Your Anxiety – You May Be Inducing Your Kids’ Math Panic
Turns out, you may be to blame for your kids’ math-related anxiety issues. According to the 2001 report, What Are the Relationships Between Mathematics Anxiety and Parents’ Education Levels and Their Children’s Math Achievement? by LeAnn Dahmer of Tennessee State University, parental math anxiety is a contributing factor to their children’s lower test scores.
The goal of Dahmer’s study was to “clarify the relationship between math anxiety and parents’ educational level and their children’s math achievement.” Out of sixty-six participating families, information from eighty parents and eighty students was used to calculate the final results.
Among the tests completed by participating children in grades one, two, three and four were the TerraNova Achievement Test and the Math Anxiety Rating Scale (MARS). A negative correlation was found between math-related anxiety and evaluative scores. Parents’ anxiety was also linked to their children’s anxiety. In other words, a child’s anxiety about math negatively impacted their test scores, and this anxiety was influenced by parents’ attitude toward the subject.
This situation, however, is not unique to America. CBCNews reported earlier this year that math anxiety among Vancouver high school students and their parents is on the rise. Parent Advisory Councils of Canada report that the number of math tutors and teens needing math help is increasing dramatically.
“There seems to be a problem of kids just not understanding math,” said Julianne Doctor of Vancouver PAC. He went on to say that math grades are often the unfair “gatekeepers” of universities, banning or admitting students based on grades in a subject in which the student may or may not have a future interest. While math anxiety may be on the rise in North America, grades are not — and when grades drop, students’ chances of being admitted to the universities of their choice also drop.
So what should a parent do? The editing data just seems to pressure us more, blame us more. Most of us are just doing our best. How often do we stare at our children’s math homework in dread, knowing full well that we won’t get the first idea of what to do with it? Are we supposed to hide our deep-rooted hostility towards a subject that has probably wronged us too? Are we smiling and pretending to be in love with material that many of us are glad to have seen the last few pages of? Well no. But we don’t need to be so negative about it either.
“…Don’t complain about math in front of your kids,” says Marilyn Burns, former teacher and author of the “Hello Math Reader” series published by Scholastic, Inc. Burns blames parents for most of her alumni’s negative comments students. perceptions of the subject. “The fear of math is hereditary.”
Burns’ read-aloud book series was created with the inspiring (albeit common-sense) notion that reading about math from an early age is just as important as educating children about any other subject. The books are punctuated with concluding activities, and their texts follow the National Council of Mathematics Teachers’ curriculum guidelines, which include problem-solving strategies and “number sense vs. paper-and-pencil exercises.” . Burns wants families to understand and appreciate the importance of math, not just for homework.
Carolyn, a recent high school graduate, agrees. “I hated math,” she said. “I hated the thought of having to take it for as long as I did; I hated the thought of colleges requiring it. I mean, really, how many times in my life am I going to need to be reminded of this what are signs and cosigns?” But, as I got older, I realized that my attitude towards it only made it worse… My dad also hated math. Maybe that’s why. He always said, “Don’t worry, honey. Just pass the class, do your grades, and you’ll never have to worry about it again. It felt good to me when I was younger, because I felt like someone understood me, you know? But maybe that wasn’t such a good thing to tell me.”
The worst thing parents can do is be anxious about their own anxiety and then twice as anxious about the anxiety they can pass on to their children. That, in itself, looks like a math word problem gone wrong. (“By what factor would a parent’s anxiety increase if child A’s panic attacks increased by three and child B…?”) Look, it’s not as complicated as the dreaded subject that we all analyze to the “Nth” degree: just stop dreading it!
First try to change your own attitudes towards the subject. See if you can find anything interesting, challenging – dare I say, even fun – about these fractions, so your kids can too. If you can, then maybe, just maybe, we won’t have to repackage the next generation.
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