A new recent study confirms what perhaps many of us have suspected all along. Conducted by a researcher at University of Chicago named Sian Beilock the research study concludes that many high-achieving students suffer from math anxiety, which can both impede their overall math performance and can also continue throughout their school career. Most interestingly, the study finds this to be true even among 1st and 2nd grade students. The research points out that while high-achieving students typically have the most working memory – which helps with problem solving and analyzing numbers – worries and anxiety about math can in fact impede a student’s working memory. It is estimated that among the highest achieving students, approximately half had medium to high math anxiety.
It seems almost alarming to consider that students as young as 1st and 2nd grade experience a level of anxiety that actually leads to a decrease in their functioning and understanding in math. As parents and educators it is important for us to be thinking about this with our students and with our children. To help with this anxiety, it is suggested that students think through and reframe their anxiety by expressively writing or drawing about it.
But what if YOU as an adult are the one with math anxiety? Despite our own best intentions, sometimes we as parents may unwittingly pass along our own anxiety onto our children! A recent article in the Wall Street Journal provides a great worksheet for “math phobic” parents, found here:
As the article notes “it is possible for a math-phobic parent to raise a quant [math prodigy], but parents need to change their behavior…halting negative talk, mixing math games and questions into daily life and encouraging kids to dive into tough math problems and not be afraid to struggle.” Changing YOUR perspective on math can perhaps change YOUR CHILD’S perspective on math. Remember T. Joseph’s mantra: “Math is fun!”
University of Chicago (2012, September 12). Math anxiety causes trouble for students as early as first grade. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 20, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2012/09/120912125116.htm
Shellenbarger, S. (2012, August 29). A Worksheet for Math-Phobic Parents. The Wall Street Journal. Retireved August 29, 2012 from http://online.wsj.com