Your math attitude could be hurting your kids

Your math attitude could be hurting your kids

(WOIO) - Parents want to help their kids with homework, but your good intentions may be hurting your children's performance -- especially with math.

Agnes Palmer is a professional, working mom. But when it comes to her daughter's fourth-grade math homework, she frequently finds herself at a loss.

"I feel, as a parent, inadequate when I can't help her with her homework. I get stressed out. She gets stressed out," Palmer said.

This kind of math anxiety is very common -- and even socially acceptable -- according to Cian Beilock, psychology professor at the University of Chicago and author of the book "Choke."

"You don't hear intelligent people walking around bragging that they're not good readers, but often, people talk about not being a numbers person," Beilock said.

She says that attitude can be harmful to kids.

"Telling them that it's okay to be bad at math, or there are people who are good at math and people that aren't. We're sending messages about their ability to succeed," she said.

In fact, one study showed the more anxious parents tried to help their kids with math homework, the worse their children performed, which led to their own math anxieties increasing.

"A parent's own fear or attitude about math can be transferred to their kids. Not only in terms of how those kids feel about math themselves, but it can actually affect kids' learning across the school year," Beilock explained.

You can create a more math-positive environment at home with the right attitude.

"Things we should stay away from are phrases like, 'I was terrible at mathematics. It's okay if you are, too,'" said Megan Roberts with Math For America.

Parents should focus on the process of getting answers.

"Tell me about how you solved this problem. Tell me what you were thinking when you worked on this number sense problem," Roberts said.

"Math is something you learn. You're not born with it. And that hard work, interest and motivation are really important for succeeding in this area," Beilock said.

Roberts said you should always be able to turn to your school for help.

"I think schools can invite and need to invite parents into the conversation with clear, direct, open lines of communication and provide opportunities for parents to learn about mathematics," she said.

Don't leave math interactions for just homework, try to incorporate it in everyday life.

"How much things cost. How tall things are. How things get bigger and smaller. And as you get older, kids start to be curious about math concepts innately if they've sort of been thinking of them as a way of life," Roberts said.

Studies show math anxiety can start to show up much earlier than first assumed. Kids as young as first grade can develop math anxiety and it can snowball from there. So it's important for parents to stay math positive from the very start.

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