Why do intelligent people like to claim that they are poor at math? Petra Bonfert-Taylor, an engineering professor at Dartmouth College, criticises the situation. Few people would think to announce their poor writing or reading skills with pride. Bonfert-Taylor, who has witnessed far too many instances of adults “passing on [mathematical fear] like a virus,” has a crucial message for math-averse parents and educators: “We are passing on the phobia for mathematics from generation to generation… Too many of us have lost the ability to analyse a real-world problem, convert it to numbers, solve the problem, and decipher the solution as a result.
When adults claim they are lousy at math, many people will identify the “destructive misconceptions” that Bonfert-Taylor refers to as being perpetuated by adults: “math is fundamentally hard, only geniuses understand it, we never loved math in the first place, and nobody needs math anyhow.” Anxiety over mathematics has been identified as a grade killer, despite the fact that well-intentioned adults may believe that discussing their own arithmetic anxieties may encourage children. According to research, girls are most affected by math teachers who loudly declare their hate of the subject before picking up the chalk. In addition, as Bonfert-Taylor notes in an article from the Washington Post, “A research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that female — but not male — mathematical achievement was lowered in reaction to a female teacher’s mathematical concern. The effect was correlated: the lower the scores, the more anxious the teacher was.
Similar effects on children’s achievement and attitude toward math can be caused by parents’ worries about the topic. Children who got arithmetic homework assistance from parents who were afraid of math demonstrated lower math performance than their peers, which led to higher math anxiety in the kids themselves, according to Bonfert-Taylor. According to recent study on math anxiety, many parents unknowingly educate their children to believe that math would be beyond their reach. A parent might remark, “Oh, I’m not a math person, it’s okay if you’re not good at math either,” as Sian Beilock, a cognitive scientist and president of Barnard College, explains in an NPR article… This may indicate to children if they are capable of succeeding.
Fortunately, Beilock’s research has discovered an incredibly simple method for parents to avoid passing on math anxiety and boost their kids’ math confidence – and it doesn’t need them getting over their own dread of the subject. For the study, researchers provided iPads with math-themed books for parents and kids to read together to families in the Chicago area. The families read tales that included fun math facts, such as the size of the largest cupcake in the world or details about walking frogs, and then the children would respond to straightforward questions about the subject. This was done from first to third grade, the years when kids tend to solidify their fear of math. They would exhibit interest in participating in math contests and competitions like AMC 8 math. By the end of the first year, parents had increased confidence in their children’s math potential but not in their own math skills. Equally important, they had increased the value placed on math capabilities. When the children’s math abilities were examined at the end of the trial, the children of math-anxious parents who had taken part in the programme fared equally as well as the children of math-confident parents. This had a direct impact on their accomplishment.
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The study’s key result for parents is how crucial it is to normalise arithmetic in a fun and informal environment at home. There are numerous different ways to do it, from playing with math games and toys to cooking together, albeit Beilock’s research employed books and stories with a mathematical theme. According to Bonfert-Taylor, we must convey to children that developing mathematical skills is similar to engaging in physical activity. Both require motivation and effort, and neither can be learnt by watching others do the task. To solve mathematical issues, you don’t need to have intrinsic mathematical talent. Instead, persistence, a willingness to take chances, and a sense of security around making mistakes are needed. Therefore, Bonfert-Taylor advises you to “attempt to have fun and give encouragement that patience will bring benefits” the next time you sit down to discuss arithmetic with a Mighty Girl in your life. Numbers are never complicated or ugly, and they pose no threat.