How Can Parents with Math Anxiety Help Their Kids Learn Math?
When I was in school, learning math meant nerve-wracking timed practice drills and intimidating worksheets with endless rows of numbers. My dislike of math turned to math anxiety in fourth grade, when the teacher tested us on multiplication facts orally, in front of the class. I would forget everything I had studied and return to my seat, humiliated by my failure. I never did memorize the multiplication tables. After a while, I began to believe that I was just “bad at math.” Like an estimated 10 to 20 percent of adults, I have math anxiety.
If you have math anxiety and are considering an online school for your child, you may worry about helping your child succeed in math. You’re smart to think about it, because studies prove that parents may unknowingly pass math anxiety to their kids, negatively impacting a student’s achievement in math. Fortunately, with some effort and the tips below, you can overcome this obstacle so that you and your child can succeed in mathematics together.
Your Best Resource
When beginning virtual school, even parents who don’t have math anxiety wonder if they’ll be able to support their children’s mathematics learning. After all, it may have been many years since you last tackled a word problem or solved for x! Luckily this concern is easily put to rest, because with this educational method, unlike traditional homeschooling, a virtual school family has access to a wonderful resource: real, live teachers.
For example, at Connections Academy® online public schools and International Connections Academy online private school, certified online teachers meet periodically with students in the virtual classroom to teach new concepts or to work with small groups of students who need assistance with more challenging skills. They are available by phone or email to help parents, Learning Coaches, and students when support is needed. These experienced online teachers can answer questions, provide feedback on schoolwork, and connect families to additional study resources.
Adjust Your Math Attitude
Parents can also help their children do well at math by encouraging them. But if you have math anxiety, this may require some big adjustments to your own attitude. Here are some thought-provoking hints to help you present a more positive outlook about learning math:
- Choose a growth mind-set. When talking with your child, remind him or her that no one is “born a math person.” People become good at math by making the effort needed to learn. Your child (and math-anxious adults like you!) can get better at math by practicing math skills.
- Recognize mistakes as part of learning. Some kids (and adults) are perfectionists who hate to be wrong! But educators have realized that asking children to solve problems through trial and error can be a valuable teaching approach. Encourage your child to persevere! After the problem is solved, praise your child for the effort made. Ask your child to explain the reasoning used, or what he or she learned from the attempts that didn’t work.
- Consider more than one approach. Today, math educators sometimes encourage students to suggest two or more ways to solve a math problem. Asking open-ended questions like this invites students to pursue their own natural curiosity. Answering the questions involves creative and critical thinking, which makes math more interesting and also encourages discussions that enhance math fluency. Give it a try with your child!
- Let your kids see you do your “homework.” Be sure to let your children witness how you use math in real life. Whether you are balancing a checkbook, estimating how much a home-improvement project will cost, or adding fractions while doubling a recipe, you can turn that experience into a teaching moment.
- Watch your words! Any time you say, “I’m so bad at math,” “I hated math class,” or “Math is so hard!”, you can have a negative effect on your child’s attitude—and achievement. It’s okay to tell your child that you struggled with math in school, but try to balance this with examples of how your worked hard and overcame a problem, or how you’ve learned to manage mathematical tasks like budgeting or calculating interest rates in your adult life or career. Kids notice when their parents are lifelong learners!
Helping your child succeed in a tough subject that gave you difficulties when you were younger may have its challenges, but the rewards are worth it. With a shiny new attitude about math and the support of your online math teacher, you can help your child build strong math skills while developing confidence and a can-do attitude that will last a lifetime.
How have you overcome math anxiety or supported your child’s math fluency? Share your brightest ideas in the comments!