Mathematics can produce feelings of dread and anxiety for many children. The thought of solving a complicated sum, or performing mental calculations in front of other people, is often enough to bring on the sweaty palms, racing heartbeat, and a feeling of insecurity and inadequacy.
Research shows that mathematics anxiety can begin as early as the first grade, so it’s important that parents take early measures to prevent their child from developing negative feelings about mathematics.
Here are six ways parents can help their child to overcome mathematics anxiety, and how to help young children develop a positive attitude towards numbers and arithmetic early on.
1. Don’t let your own anxieties get in the way
As adults, many of us have our own insecurities about mathematics, and aren’t afraid to express it. This can send the wrong message to your child, for example: ‘If my parent doesn’t need mathematics, then I don’t’, or ‘If adults think mathematics is hard, then there’s no hope for me.’ Try to avoid talking negatively about mathematics and be conscious of how your perceptions can unintentionally impact your child’s confidence.
2. Embrace mistakes
Avoid getting frustrated or putting a big red X over an incorrect answer. Instead of saying ‘No that’s wrong’, you can say, ‘Let’s work this out together.’ Ask your child to show you how they have tried to solve a problem and say, ‘What might happen if we try this instead?’ A good idea is to use different shaded pencils to show different strategies. Mistakes are a natural and integral part of learning, and it’s important for your child to understand that. Assure your child that even you make mistakes from time to time.
3. Be positive
Positive reinforcement is a valuable tool for helping struggling children to build their confidence and stay motivated to learn. It’s about reinforcing what they do right, rather than focusing on what they do wrong. When your child sits down to solve a sum or shows determination towards understanding a particular skill or concept, be sure to reward your child with encouragement, praise, a smile, or even a hug.
4. Try an online mathematics program
Online learning programs are a fantastic way to build your children’s confidence in in the familiar and nurturing home environment. A research-based education program like Mathseeds is designed to match your child’s individual ability and progress at their own pace with interactive, one-on-one lessons. Online programs are also great for motivating children to learn and improve, with rewards, vibrant animations, and entertaining songs.
5. Express fears in writing
Researchers have found that expressive writing can be an effective tool in helping children overcome feelings of anxiety. In one study, a group of students who were asked to write about their fears before an exam were able to improve their average grade from around a B- to a B+. You can encourage your child to list words to describe how mathematics makes them feel. You can even help them to write a story about a character that overcomes a fear of mathematics, and winds up learning to enjoy it!
6. Relate mathematics to real-life situations
Encourage your child to see how mathematics can be applied to real-life situations, and why it’s so important. This will allow their natural sense of curiosity to take over their fears. Your child will become more eager to learn, ask questions, and look out for more opportunities to show you how well they’ve grasped key concepts. You can integrate mathematics into everyday activities such as shopping, creating a weekly budget, and cooking. Read more ways to help your child apply mathematics to real world situations here.
Mathseeds is the comprehensive online mathematics program that makes learning fun for children aged 3 to 8. It includes interactive games, activities, lessons and rewards that help children learn early mathematical skills and concepts. You can sign up for your free trial of Mathseeds and Reading Eggs today.