Are Parents To Blame For Students’ Math Anxiety?

Molly Spalding
Molly Spalding
25 Oct
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Are parents to blame for students’ math anxiety? After all, parents are the first teacher and primary role model for their children. It’s actually been shown that parents play an unintentional role in the development of math anxiety. When math-anxious parents help with students’ math homework, their children’s math-learning processes decline and their levels of math anxiety increase. Parent may inadvertently transfer their negative conception of math to their children. Parents can also elevate their children’s math anxiety through the use of certain parental behaviors, such as putting pressure on their children’s academic performance. A recent study found that when the levels of mothers’ math anxiety are high, their children show less intrinsic motivation, poor arithmetic skills, and higher levels of implicitly measured math anxiety.

But it’s not really fair to blame all this on parents. Math anxiety is influenced by more than just environmental factors. We also need to look at cognitive factors.  Studies have found a negative correlation between math anxiety and achievement, see examples here, here, and here. However, math anxiety may be both the cause and the result of low achievement. It’s a vicious cycle, once students have math anxiety, they avoid mathematical tasks, which only leads to gaps in their learning and students falling behind. When students struggle with math, they become more anxious.

So how can you help students with math anxiety, especially if they have math-anxious parents?

Tip #2 Give students access to resources that act like a personal tutor.

(To see Tip #1, check out this previous blog post)

Build up students’ confidence by giving them positive math support, exactly when they need it. Hiring a personal tutor may be out of the realm of possibilities for many families, but thanks to technology, students can get the support they need in a more cost-effective way. As educators, we can provide digital resources that act like a personal tutor, which can be just as effective.

Even the best students can suffer from math anxiety. How can you help?

MathXL for School: Digital homework assignments that provide automatic feedback, like the embedded MathXL for School assignments in enVision A|G|A and enVision Integrated, can build a student‘s confidence while they effectively master the content. These assignments include personalized learning aids act as a 24-7, always available tutor. High school students can choose from several learning aids to find the support that helps them most, including:

  • Help Me Solve This walks students through how to solve a problem while providing feedback at every step of the problem.
  • View an Example lets students view a similar worked-out solution with different numbers.

Virtual Nerd: These tutorial videos, which are aligned to every lesson in the enVision A|G|A and enVision Integrated programs, fend off student frustration when they need a math refresher. The instructional videos are clear, with accompanying demonstrations and step-by-step solutions. With hundreds of videos to choose from, students can easily find a video to suit the need at hand. The free Virtual Nerd app is available (App Store| Google Play) for students to download on their mobile devices for on-the-go access to the tutorials.

If you want to see how these two resources are intertwined in a full core curriculum, like enVision A|G|A or enVision Integrated, click here and select “Try a free demo today”.

So go ahead and have your students try the free Virtual Nerd app. In fact, parents may appreciate having a willing tutor at their fingertips, too.

Even the best students can suffer from math anxiety. How can you help?

About the Author:
Molly Spalding is a former math teacher who now works on creating and marketing Pearson high school math programs. She is passionate about education and helping students see the beauty in mathematics. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Industrial Engineering from the Pennsylvania State University and a Masters of Science in Secondary Mathematics Education from Northwestern University.

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