A parent shared a link to this article on math anxiety: Square Root of Kids’ Math Anxiety: Their Parents’ Help. The article summarizes a recent study of second graders which suggests they “catch” math anxiety from their math-anxious parents when helped with homework. The more these math-anxious parents helped their kids, the farther the students slipped in math performance. The study was conducted in three midwestern states, using 438 students from 29 public and private schools. The article concludes with a brief survey for parents to determine their own levels of math anxiety.
The math-anxious parent who shared this research obviously felt worse than ever. I do wonder to what extent the correlations are muddied by hereditary math disabilities and anxiety. And isn’t cognitive empathy helpful? “I overcame this and so can you?” I have heard from MANY parents of non-special kids that the math homework of today is mystifying and downright impossible. Still, I think we all know that perceptions can influence behavior, hence the emphasis upon female role models for STEM careers. It makes sense that math-anxious parents could communicate such anxiety. Researchers have noted that effective elementary math instruction hinges upon teachers who know what they are doing. In fact, in a recent MOOC-Ed class on learning differences, several high school teachers commented on math-avoidant elementary teachers. One remarked that elementary teachers emphasize reading and writing to the exclusion of adequate math instruction. Since middle and high school math teachers specialize in that subject, I think we can assume (and hope) they aren’t math-anxious. Elementary teachers, I suggest you try that survey mentioned above!