Math doesn’t have to be scary, but it does tend to conjure up fear in school kids everywhere. Eliminate your child’s fear of math with these five tips from moms and professional educators.
Acknowledge the fear
Rebecca Zook, a professional math tutor, says it’s okay to recognize the “fear” of math. She says, “A recent study actually found that students did better when they wrote about their fears before taking a challenging math test.” According to the study, “Writing about testing worries boosts exam performance in the classroom,” Gerardo Ramirez and Sian L Beilock, Science, January 2011 issue.
“While many people tell us that thinking negative thoughts will only cause us to manifest negative things, if we do not acknowledge our negative emotions, they only become more powerful,” Zook explained. “Sometimes writing (or even talking) about math fear can help you move forward.”
So, allow your children to express their feelings about math (or anything!) and make sure they know you are always there for them.
Make math a part of every day and make it simple
Caroline Mukisa, who runs www.mathsinsider.com, suggests that parents help make math an essential and relatable part of everyday life. She says, “Cut up pizza or sandwiches for fraction practice; give your child a wristwatch and curfew, or for older kids, get them to work out the best mobile phone plan; skip count 2,4,6,8 using a jump rope, or for older, sporty kids, get them to work out running speeds of their friends and family; and [check out] You Tube [which] has over 400 results for ‘Multiplication rap’.”
Shannon Hendricks, program director for Educational First Steps in Dallas, TX, says, “Make math simple! One-to-one correspondence is an extremely important skill to develop and it’s easy – count objects out loud to/with your child. For example: ‘Look, Sally, you have five grapes. 1,2,3,4,5!’ As the child gets older, you can begin simple addition and subtraction in the same manner. Say, ‘I have 10 grapes. I’m going to give you six. How many do I have left? 1,2,3,4!'”
She adds, “In regards to the concept of time, begin speaking about things in relation to length of time. ‘In five minutes, we will leave to go to the store.’ And ask, ‘How many toys do you think you can put away in two minutes?’ Count them as the child puts them away. This builds on estimation and time.”
Celebrate – and learn from – mistakes
When it comes to overcoming a fear of math, Sherlyn Pang Luedtke, founder of Present Parent Training, suggests staying calm as you help your child overcome a fear of math. “Calm yourself and lead your child by doing your best. Your reaction to the subject teaches your child how to react. So instead of reacting with fear, stay persistent and confident and do your best.”
She also suggests celebrating mistakes, “Instead of saying that an answer is wrong, ask your child how they got that answer. If it is a mistake, teach your child to celebrate it. Mistakes are not bad; they are part of the learning process.” Show your child that you are not afraid of making mistakes because it leads to learning something new. Pang Luedtke says, “If you are corrected, stay light about it and say, ‘Wow! I love learning.’ Let your child see you reading and attending classes. It shows them that you can relate.”
Practice – and patience makes perfect
Marilyn Curtain-Phillips, M. Ed., mathematics instructor and author of Math Attack: How to Reduce Math Anxiety in the Classroom at Work and in Everyday Personal Use and the mathematics workbook, Who is This Mathematician/Scientist?, suggests helping kids look at math as something that needs to be practiced, much like a sport. She says parents should “let their children understand that mathematics is like anything else — it take practice and patience. Just as parents tell their children to practice at playing sports, they should give mathematics the same time and effort. Also, parents should show their children positive ways they use mathematics in everyday activities such as sewing, cooking, planning a family trip, budgeting and grocery shopping.”
One size does not fit all
Entrepreneur and “Mama of Many” Julie Cole says that parents should understand that there is no one right way to teach a child. She says, “As a mom to six kids aged 11 and under, one of my biggest tips is to understand that each kid is an individual and learns differently.” When it comes to math, she says, “Much of the math curriculum taught in schools today is actually language-based, which can turn a former math whiz into an insecure kid who believes they ‘suck’ at it. If your kid is struggling in this subject, take the time to find out if the problem is an ability to express their understanding verbally. Chances are if your child can manage a sheet of problems but freezes when faced with lengthy descriptions of the same concepts, the issue may be their learning style or language abilities.”