It was last Christmas when I got my 4 year old nephew a big bar of chocolate. The little fellow precisely broke the slab into 3 pieces – keeping one for himself and the rest to his parents. His parents were proud of their son’s sharing attitude. But I was more drawn to the child’s ability to understand symmetry – here breaking the chocolate into equal pieces.
Research says that children develop abilities considered as basic math skill in early childhood. As they are more open to learning, children as young as 5 to 6 years can be successfully taught the basic fundamentals of mathematics. Children taught at this stage find it easier to develop math skills as they grow up.
If children can learn so quickly, why do they come to fear this subject?
Every child is born with a different set of skills and IQ. In spite of this, studies show that every child can learn mathematics. So then why don’t all children learn math? Why do they resent so much? As a child, even I did quake at the sight of algebra.

  • This phenomenon is known as ‘Math ‘ Mark H. Ashcraft defines it as a “feeling of tension, apprehension, or fear that interferes with math performance. Between 17 to 30% of elementary and middle schoolaged children have this math anxiety.
  • Perhaps the answer to this problem lies in the environment the child grows in. If the parent or the teacher of the child faces math anxiety themselves, they can pass on this fear to the child.
  • Fear of being reprimanded by parents or humiliation by teachers or friends on failing a math test can also instill fearformath which will continue even when he/ she grow up. Like a chain reaction, this fear passes from generation to generation.

How to get your Child do his/ her Math Homework?
Encouraging and Building Confidence:
Do you feel anxious or frustrated when you are doing something that you love? No, right? This is because you love the work – be it reading, baseball, football, cooking and most importantly, you know you can do it. That’s confidence.

  • As a teacher or a parent, the first thing is to tell the child that he/she has no reason to be afraid of mathematics. And it is completely okay if the child takes two hours more than the rest of the students to do the homework.
  • If you are a parent suffering from math anxiety, never express your fearfor the subject in front of your child. This is because children emulate their parents. If you speak about math is terrible, and how you fared poorly, your child will also begin to feel the same even if he/ she is good at it.

Strengthening of the basic skills:
The second step is to help student the basic mathematical skills. If a student faces difficulty in simple subtraction, then how can he/she proceed to division!

  • For this, the teachers must encourage them to do mental math regularly. Various mathexercises can be done before the beginning of a class as a warming up exercise. Or even a math quiz can be done once a week in schools; evenparents can also sit for a session with their kids.
  • Parents can also teach practical applications of mathematics while buying groceries, shopping, and other household chores. This technique is a great way to encourage children to learn basic addition, subtraction multiplication, and division techniques.

Tutoring is a great approach to help students overcome math anxiety especially if a student is a slow learner. Researchers conducted an experiment on a group of third graders by sorting them into two groups – one group consisted of the students having high levels of math anxiety while the other had students with low level of math anxiety. The first group was given one-on-one math tutoring for three weeks where they were exposed to different types of math problem.
After that when the two groups faced a math test the first group showed brain activity similar to that of children with no math anxiety. Repeated exposure can make the child feel in control of the situation thereby lessening their math anxiety.
Math Workshops:
If your child is facing difficulty in math, encourage him/ her to attend math workshops organized by the school or any group. This is because these work shops aim at helping students overcome their fear of mathematics.

  • These groups allow their children to speak openly about their fears, areas of difficulty and suggest ways, shortcuts and other techniques to help them out.
  • These groups use various new age techniques those are still not introduced in classrooms to teach math. It can be in the form of a game or a murder mystery where students can learn and use their newly acquired mathematical skill playfully.

Regular Study:
Encourage your child to practice math daily whether they get homework or not.If you are good at the topic, you can guide them whenever they face difficulty. If not, then you can make use of various selfhelp math books for parents that can also help you guide your child.
Learning mathematics will help your child go a long way. There are several other subjects that employ theuse of mathematical tools. One such subject is economics that requires a good foundation of math skills.
So we can see that we now live in a society that requires great use of mathematics. Be it in matters of finance, engineering, etc. Hence, it isamust that math should be shown in a positive light. It is high time that school curriculum must introduce new methods that help lessen math anxiety for students.

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