Be reassured -if your child is anxious and struggling with maths at school- you CAN help- even if maths is not your favourite subject!
It may be huge or tiny, but maths anxiety adversely affects the lives of us all. Mathematics has a key role in our lives, fundamental to the science that will protect our planet for future generations.
Whether your child has mild anxiety when faced with a multiplication sum that ‘they always get wrong’ or a fear of maths that prevents them from going to school, be reassured, this situation can change.
As a parent you will probably be asking yourself “What started my child’s maths anxiety?” It is very difficult to find out, but relatively recent brain science and educational research can give us some clues and some strategies to help.
What causes a child to have maths anxiety?
☺ Everyone’s brain is capable of developing mathematical skills to the highest level. However our culture powerfully supports the idea that some people just can’t do it and it’s easy for this idea to be passed on to the next generation.
☺ Each of our brains are hardwired to remember our mistakes more powerfully than our successes (One theory is that this human trait helped us have less-narrow escapes from the tiger!).
☺ Mistakes are a normal and very important part of learning but a sum marked with a tick makes us feel better than a sum marked with a cross - this type of marking doesn’t happen in quite the same way with other subjects.
☺ Embarrassment, for example when others see our marked page and can compare how many crosses we have, affects our brains and stops us learning.
☺ A time limit on tests is proven to be a powerful trigger for maths anxiety, and sadly a child who isn’t fast but instead spends time thinking about numbers has the potential to become a brilliant mathematician! Education systems seem to love timed tests and now apps and online games often have a timed element too.
☺ Our brains commit things to memory while we sleep - but only if they can be connected to something that is already learned, and so it’s forty times easier to learn something by putting it into practice than it is by being told about it.
With all this in mind be reassured that maths at home can change your child’s emotional response to the subject -
6 best tips to help a child with maths anxiety
☺ Play maths games
and link the subject with moments of fun.
☺ Each time the opportunity arises, talk to your child about valuing mistakes - they’re great to puzzle over, and if we don’t challenge ourselves and make them we miss out on learning!
☺ Look for the maths all around us, make it real.
Handle objects playfully
and curiously (your child will be brilliant at this). Share their curiosity and talk about the patterns and the maths you notice.
☺ Connect as many sums as possible to something real.
By doing sums with objects your child will remember some of the visual images and these memories will always be available to help.
☺ Do lots of sums by drawing, painting, printing and listening for more powerfully memorable visual and audio images
- look for the beautiful patterns and connections in maths.
☺ If your child wants to do sums on paper, start with an answer and challenge them to make up questions to go with it.
I really hope that you will find this information helpful and informative. I am passionate
about these principles, and they have been fundamental to the development of Number Chase games and activities.