A nail in blood pressure. A break pulse. Sweaty palms.
To many adults, this is what they feel when they encounter difficult mathematics.
But for children, mathematical anxiety is not just a feeling, it can affect their ability to do well in school. This fear tends to creep up on the students when the performances are greatest, as during exams or when speaking in class.
A cause of the child's mathematical anxiety? How their parents know the subject.
"A parent can say," Oh, I'm not a matte person, it's okay if you're not good at math either, "says Sian Beilock, cognitive researcher and chairman of Barnard College." It can send a signal to the children whether they can succeed. "
But new research from Beilock and her team shows that parents do not have to overcome their fear of maths to help their child succeed as long as they change their attitudes
The researchers gave food-related bedtime stories to families in the Chicago area through an iPad app called Bedtime Math. The stories presented fun facts about walking frogs or the world's largest muffin. After reading the stories with their parents, the children answered questions about what they just read, practicing simple additions or measuring the amount of an ingredient. F Amilies did it for a total of three years – while the children grew from first to third grade – because this is when children tend to strengthen their fear of mathematics.
After a year of reading these stories, parents felt more confident in their children's mathematical potential and appreciated the importance of math skills more. Now, after three years when the students were tested for their mathematical ability, they did as well as the children whose parents felt safe for maths.
An attempt: Two years in the study, families rarely used the app (less than once a week) and the parents still felt worried about their own mathematical skills. Using the app to read bedtime stories did not get rid of mathematical anxiety – it was a way for families to normalize math at home and create a relaxed dialogue about the topic. There is more than one way to do it: Beilock suggests that other fun activities like puzzles and cooking allow families to talk about maths.
Creating an environment where math is a part of everyday life will not turn children into mathematical feelings overnight, but maybe it may help kids to realize math is a topic of curiosity, discussion and growth.
"It's almost socially acceptable to be keen on math", in a way that does not concern reading, says Beilock. However, early mathematical skills provide an important foundation for academic success and have predicted performance later in school, including reading ability.