One Key to Math Confidence is Parents’ Attitudes Toward Math​

Katrina's Blog


So tell me, how do you feel about math? If you hate it with the intensity of 1,000 suns and it makes you sweat much like 1,000 suns would, this newsletter will interest you. Because it turns out, math-anxious adults can pass on their math anxiety to the children around them. A study published last year in Psychological Science showed that, “children of highly math-anxious parents learned less math and were more likely to develop math anxiety themselves, but only when their parents provided frequent help on math homework.” You can read more about the phenomenon in this New York Times article.


Sian L. Beilock, a University of Chicago cognitive psychologist quoted in the article says, “Parents are not out to sabotage their kids. But we have to ensure their input is productive. They need to have an awareness of their own math anxiety and that what you say is important.” Before you let this information make you even more anxious about math, do not worry. There are things you can do.


Demonstrate resilience

Do not say, “It is okay, I am not a math person either.” Rather, demonstrate that it is important to puzzle through things and persevere. You might say instead, “Let’s see if we can tackle this together and keep trying until we understand it.” Of course, this is easier said than done in the face of Common Core math and the new techniques kids are learning, which can feel like Greek. But rather than letting your frustration get the better of you, see if you can use it as an opportunity to show your child how to handle adversity.



Math homework can be an excellent opportunity to practice mindfulness. Take notice of how you and your child are feeling and if anxiety or frustration starts to creep in, take a moment to breathe. Let your child know it is okay to take a break when things feel hard.


Show your child that math is all around

When you are figuring tip at a restaurant, involve your child and show them how it is done. At the pump, see if they can figure out how much 10 gallons of gas will cost. Ask them to help you count out the change due at the coffee shop. Demonstrating how often we use math and empowering them to try it for themselves can go a long way.​