Math anxiety — a fear of getting math concepts and problems wrong and the resulting avoidance of math because of that — is something I’ve seen many times over my life and not just in children. It’s just as prevalent in adults and, believe it or not, despite my PhD in math, I experienced math anxiety as a child, too.
While some children allowed their math anxiety to grow into a lifelong avoidance of math, mine fueled my competitive spirit and led me to push ahead of my peers, learning advanced math concepts even when I wasn’t able to get into the advanced math classes my middle school offered.
That’s a big question mark in the math anxiety experience and one that can greatly impact your child’s future. Will they choose to avoid math for life? Or will they use math to their advantage in not just their elementary education, but also their higher education and later career? Will they have a growth mindset, or a fear mindset? Will they avoid the concepts they fear, or use their fear of math to get better at it? In many cases, these are the big questions you ask, not whether or not your child actually has math anxiety.
See, most of us have some sort of anxiety around math or another subject. The anxiety might not even be about the math itself per se. Instead, it’s the anxiety around being perceived as a bad student or as “stupid.” It just so happens that many people don’t learn math easily via the curriculum used in most schools and our society, in general, tells us it’s okay to not be a “numbers person” — and so, math anxiety continues.
But if your child latches onto that growth mindset and they overcome their fear of math, the opportunities are endless.
When our children are encouraged to pursue math, not when they’re told that being “not a numbers person” is perfectly fine, but when they are empowered to overcome their math anxiety, everyone benefits. It’s not just about your child and their elementary school grades. Beyond that, your child and their peers could be the catalyst for a better future for the world.
Math skills are analytic and reasoning skills. Students who do well in math usually do well in everything else. Studies have proven time and time again that children who do well in math early on, do better in all their subjects later. A math literate society is a more successful one.
A math literate society can produce more scientists, technologists, engineers and more who are equipped to solve the world’s problems. Math-literate entrepreneurs, politicians and creatives add their own value when they’re able to discuss the world’s issues with math-focused professionals.
Some parents worry that their children are simply incapable of learning advanced math concepts or even basic math concepts, due to a learning disability. But I feel that nearly every child can learn math regardless, and here’s why.
Every student seems to have the capacity for learning language. At Elephant Learning, we work with math as a language and if your student, regardless of learning impairment, is able to speak and understand language, then our system should be able to work for them (as it’s language based).
Similarly, just as we use language learning methods to teach math within the Elephant Learning app, the same methods we use to teach math (and the same teaching methods discussed all throughout the Elephant Learning blog) are applicable to any subject.
For example, one of the key ways we tell parents to help their child overcome math misunderstandings is to, when a child gets a math problem wrong, instead of telling them the answer is wrong, ask them why they think that’s the right answer. When a child explains, the parent can generally pinpoint why they’re getting the concept wrong and remedy the situation. This same practice can be used when helping a child learn anything.
Through methods like this that children learn through math, children can then learn to be aware of their obstacles and adapt to overcome those obstacles. But the first obstacle you as their parent have to be aware of in order to help them adapt to overcome it, is math anxiety. Once they’re empowered and go on to become aware of obstacles on their own, the sky’s the limit. They can encounter a problem and rather than letting their anxiety tell them to head in the other direction, they can devise a way to solve the problem.
The empowerment children need in order to do so is possible through the Elephant Learning app and through working with your child hands-on, on a regular basis, and getting involved with their education.
With awareness and adaptation, your child can accomplish anything — from overcoming their math anxiety to changing the world.
Read about the brilliant mathematician Giuseppe Peano, who was a little too enthusiastic about pointing out fellow mathematicians’ mistakes.
Discover why Eudoxus of Cnidus was considered among the greatest of classical Greek mathematicians who invented what we call calculus today.
Learn about Diophantus and his famous Arithmetica, the work that introduced us to concepts of modern algebra still used today.
Learn about Christian Goldbach’s conjecture and why mathematicians have been unable to prove or disprove it to this day.
Read about the Greek Mathematician Eratosthenes, who created a methodology for finding the circumference of the Earth within a fraction of error!