Do you know that approximately 17% of the American population suffers from a high level of math anxiety, while 93% of adult US Americans indicate that they experience some degree of math anxiety? Math anxiety starts early. Students as young as 5 are anxious, and early anxiety snowballs, leading to math difficulties and avoidance that only get worse as they get older.
Let’s take A closer look at some of the impressions that children make while pursuing math courses. When does the aversion to math learning start? How can parents and teachers work with children to help them foster a positive attitude and strong enthusiasm about math?
Math is more critical today than ever. Our children’s future careers will revolve around technical skills originating from STEM courses requiring math fluency, numeracy, and critical thinking skills. It is imperative to build strong foundations in math skills during children’s early learning or development stages so that they are ready for the competitive workplace later in life.
Intervention to help overcome learning obstacles and to help children conquer their apprehension about numeric problem solving is of paramount significance.
The Big Math Problem: American Children Struggle with Basic Numeracy Skills
When measuring American students against similarly aged children in other developed countries, children living in the United States have a statistically measured Latency in mathematics. The 2015 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) ranked American students as 38th out of 71 countries for academic performance in math. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) also ranked American students in the bottom 15% of industrialized nations for functional math skills.
We need to change our approach to numeracy curriculum, problem-solving methodologies, and the way children relate to math and science reasoning to help them prepare for STEM roles in the future.
The Compounding Effect When Math Fundamentals Are Not Learned
It can be challenging for teachers to allocate individualized learning for children who are struggling with math fundamentals. Teachers may not have the tools or the scheduled time to help break through those learning barriers.
When a child has not grasped certain math fundamentals, they may feel pressed into a high-stress situation. They helplessly watch their peers get better grades while they struggle, they may feel isolated, at times humiliated for their performance and the fear for math sets in.
They may hesitate to get the extra help they need and shy away from learning math. Hence the vicious cycle of math fear, aversion, and low performance starts accentuating into math anxiety. In such cases, the math understanding deteriorates further, and math confidence/ performance is adversely impacted.
The Common Causes of Math Anxiety in Children
One of the most limiting and potentially damaging misbeliefs when it comes to practical learning and mastering numeracy skills is the concept that some people are ‘naturally better’ or talented at math.
If the learning pace becomes intimidating for children or if they haven’t grasped the essential foundational concepts of math problem-solving or if they receive negative feedback at school or home, they develop math anxiety.
This continues to escalate through elementary school years into high school, where children begin to limit their educational options in the areas of technology and science.
How Can Parents and Teachers Help Children Overcome Math Anxiety?
There are five essentials that teachers and parents can work together to remove the learning obstacles and help children create a healthy new love for mathematics and numerical problem-solving.
1. Start by dispensing with the idea that some children are good at math, and others are not. It is an academic myth; there is no evidence in clinical studies that suggest that children have an innate talent in math. What matters is helping them develop confidence in their ability to solve math problems is by making learning fun with positive reinforcement.
2. Identify the core fundamentals of numeracy learning that were missed. When a child is struggling with math, teachers and parents must revisit, identify, and assess topics that the child did not understand and refocus on these skills.
3. Create a strong understanding of the learning process by providing learning tools that encourage step by step approach. Children want to feel proud of their academic work and performance, and they should be supplied with stress-free self-learning tools along with the ecosystem.
4. Parents can also assess their feelings toward math. When the parent has anxiety related to numeracy and problem solving, they can inadvertently pass on the same to kids. Parents can also help by demonstrating the significance of math in real daily life instances.
5. Make math fun! When it’s time to do math problems or homework, don’t make it seem like it’s a chore. Number+Sense (powered by Knomadix) is a fun tablet and smartphone app that provides intrinsic rewards and personalized encouragement for each child.
When children are playing or practicing math problems within Number+Sense, artificial intelligence software can detect when a child is struggling with the solution to the problem. Number+Sense provides tips within the display, to help break down the problem by example, assisting children in seeing how to change their approach to arrive at the correct answer successfully.
Would you like to explore Number+Sense, the gamified fun new approach to math learning? Our app is available for free download on the Apple AppStore and Google Play. Download it today and start breaking down the barriers and help them build new confidence and love for math, with Number+Sense.