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  • Writer's pictureSmridhi Malhotra

Maths Anxiety: A Parent’s In-Depth Guide to Understanding and Overcoming


If you think your child is afraid of the math subject only during exams or before submitting an assignment, it’s time to understand the problem in detail. It’s a notion that has often misled parents because maths anxiety transcends mere nervousness before a test. Maths anxiety is a pervasive fear of numbers that afflicts many children – irrespective of the age or the grade they study in. It permeates into adulthood and potentially limits educational and career choices. 

Parents need to recognize this anxiety and play a role in helping the child navigate math anxiety is paramount for a brighter future for them. It’s a subject that will help them throughout their life – managing their finances, excelling in their jobs, and much more. STEM subjects play a big role in ensuring great careers so math cannot be overlooked. For every bachelor’s and master’s degree in a good college or university, math plays an important role as it’s part of every entrance exam with a high weightage.

The gender equation in maths anxiety

A recent study points out that a fascinating aspect of maths anxiety is its connection to gender. Studies consistently reveal that, on average, girls report higher levels of maths anxiety than boys, irrespective of their performance. Societal beliefs and stereotypes play a significant role. This subtly suggests that girls may not be as naturally adept at maths. These stereotypes inadvertently infiltrate classrooms, where girls' challenges may be unfairly attributed to ability, further fueling maths anxiety.

A promising solution involves injecting creativity into maths education. By presenting mathematical concepts in engaging ways and reshaping problem-solving approaches, educators aim to deepen children's intuitive understanding. The goal here is to make maths less intimidating. And to achieve this goal, both parents and teachers play an important role.

Parental Strategies to alleviate maths anxiety

Parents play an instrumental role in mitigating maths anxiety. Constructive feedback that emphasizes effort over innate ability is crucial. Celebrating the process as a whole, rather than merely the outcome, builds resilience and a positive attitude toward math subject challenges. Here are ten detailed tips for parents to alleviate math anxiety in their kids.

1. Stay positive – Your focus should be to promote a positive attitude towards maths at home. Even if you understand that the situation is not really good, completely avoid voicing negative sentiments or stereotypes about the subject. A negative approach toward the subject will instill more fear in a learner.

2. Celebrate effort – Keep a positive mindset about the efforts your kids make. It’s not always about the results. Praise your child’s hard work and perseverance without trying to quantify how much exactly they study math. When they are trying to be normal and gain ground in the subject, appreciate them for every bit of effort they put in. Your entire focus should be on the process rather than just the outcome.

3. Introducing real-world maths – Textbooks alone can’t do the magic. The traditional idea of cramming books is no more relevant. If the students find textbooks boring or uninspiring, you need to incorporate maths into daily activities. Try to make it as tangible and relatable as possible.

4. Encourage risk-taking - Let your child tackle challenging maths problems. Don’t always tell them to do the easy ones. The fear will slowly start going away as you up the level of complexity. Celebrate effort and encourage learning from mistakes. They will be inspired to take up more complex problems and try their best to solve them.

5. Seek resources – There are plenty of options available in online stores. Find maths games, apps, and books for engaging learning. The world has changed a lot in terms of education and interactive and engaging learning are the in-things. Go for newer things to engage your kids.

6. Communicate with teachers – Feedback and discussions have been an important aspect of the learning process. It’s still equally important to regularly discuss your child’s progress with teachers. Gain insights and strategies tailored to your child’s needs and create a plan to implement and execute them well.

7.  Mindfulness and relaxation – Stress can derail even the best. Just imagine your work life. It’s just the same for the kids. You need to focus on their mental health too. Teach relaxation techniques to calm nerves before tackling maths problems or even appearing for an exam. This will go a long way in ensuring optimal mental health of the kids.

8. Break gender stereotypes – This is another important aspect of building confidence in your kids to study math. Avoid assigning gender roles in any subject, especially maths. To give them good examples, highlight successful women in STEM fields and their contribution to the field.

9. Seek external help – Your personal commitments and work life might not allow you to do the best for the kids in teaching a complex subject like math that takes a lot of time and effort. In this case, you should consider additional tutoring or counseling if anxiety persists.

10. Create a study-friendly environment - Set a quiet, organized space for focused learning. This is one of the basic requirements to help your kids focus and keep their ideas flowing when tackling math problems.


Addressing parental maths anxiety

It’s not just the kids who face problems in handling math subject. It’s totally fine of you as parents are grappling with maths anxiety. Take your time and start a personal growth journey to model resilience for the children. They are sure to follow you if you set examples for them. Your approach will go a long way in developing confidence to handle math subject.

1. Reflect on past experiences – Sit back and try to understand the origin of your anxiety. It could be anything - a teacher, a challenging year, or peer comparison.

2. Acknowledge your feelings – There’s no shame about it. It’s as normal as anything if you are not comfortable in a field of study. Accept your maths anxiety. This will serve as the first step toward addressing the issue.

3. For personal growth - Start small with beginner courses and gradually tackle more complex topics. You can also try games, puzzles, and group learning. This will make the experience comfortable and enjoyable both for the kids and you.

4. When interacting with kids – Don’t look dejected or afraid. It’s just an academic matter that you can overcome with some confidence and a willingness to learn. To show yourself as confident, project positivity when discussing maths, even if you feel anxious. Let the kids not get the negative vibes. They will respond exactly the way you present your feelings and ideas to them. Learn together while exploring answers jointly through books or online resources.

5. Focus on the process – It’s not a step. Learning math and mastering it is a full-cycle process. You should emphasize the importance of trying and learning. This will reduce performance pressure and keep your confidence intact.

6. Use everyday situations - Introduce maths organically through real-world applications. It’s the simplest way to learn math. In a very quick time, your basics will be clear and you’ll feel a new level of energy when tackling math problems.

7. Seek external help, online classes - If unable to assist, consider hiring a tutor or using online resources. If your office keeps you busy, it’s best to have some quick online course in math, maybe a crash course, from a good site that has a reputation for teaching math subject.

8. Focus on building resilience - Demonstrate determination in tackling challenging maths situations. Don’t try to skip it because it is what finally your kids will do. Facing it head-on means you are keen to learn math and do the best for your kids' learning.

9. Communication is the key - Regularly discuss your child’s feelings about maths for better support. Understanding them and getting their ideas means you will also get a newer perspective on the subject on a regular basis. They’ll share what they learn in school or college or hear from their peers and this will lead to a transfer of knowledge. Learning from young minds will help you build confidence in the subject. 

Conclusion – Mastering math subject is easy

It's never too late for parents to overcome maths anxiety. Approaching the subject with curiosity, patience, and positivity will redefine the narrative around maths. As parents, you should know that backing out will break the confidence of your kids and they’ll start fearing math even more or maybe quit it forever. It is important to build confidence and enthusiasm not just for parents but, crucially, for their children. As we learn more about the deep aspects of maths anxiety, parents stand as key influencers. As parents, your role should be to ensure that your child approaches maths with self-assurance and a zest for learning the subject.

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