tag:theconversation.com,2011:/us/topics/math-anxiety-20069/articlesMath anxiety – The Conversation2023-08-17T12:34:54Ztag:theconversation.com,2011:article/2111712023-08-17T12:34:54Z2023-08-17T12:34:54Z3 reasons we use graphic novels to teach math and physics<figure><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/542875/original/file-20230815-20-jxi8dm.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&rect=10%2C0%2C2393%2C1061&q=45&auto=format&w=496&fit=clip" /><figcaption><span class="caption">Graphic novels can help make math and physics more accessible for students, parents or teachers in training.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="source" href="https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/education-concept-science-technology-reading-books-royalty-free-image/1201355144?adppopup=true">Metamorworks/iStock via Getty Images</a></span></figcaption></figure><p>Post-pandemic, some educators are trying to reengage students with technology – like videos, <a href="https://theconversation.com/video-gaming-can-bolster-classroom-learning-but-not-without-teacher-support-190483">computer gaming</a> or artificial intelligence, just to name a few. But integrating these approaches in the classroom can be an uphill battle. Teachers using these tools often struggle to retain students’ attention, competing with the latest social media phenomenon, and can feel limited by using short video clips to get concepts across. </p>
<p>Graphic novels – offering visual information married with text – provide a means to engage students without losing all of the rigor of textbooks. As two educators <a href="https://www.sarahklanderman.com/">in math</a> <a href="https://www.joshaho.com/">and physics</a>, we have found graphic novels to be effective at teaching students of all ability levels. We’ve used graphic novels in our own classes, and we’ve also inspired and encouraged other teachers to use them. And we’re not alone: Other teachers are rejuvenating this analog medium with a <a href="https://doi.org/10.1353/jeu.2014.0018">high level of success</a>.</p>
<p>In addition to <a href="https://gnclassroom.com/">covering a wide range of topics and audiences</a>, graphic novels can explain tough topics without alienating student averse to STEM – science, technology, engineering and math. Even for students who already like math and physics, graphic novels provide a way to dive into topics beyond what is possible in a time-constrained class. In our book “<a href="http://bloomsbury.com/uk/using-graphic-novels-in-the-stem-classroom-9781350279186/">Using Graphic Novels in the STEM Classroom</a>,” we discuss the many reasons why graphic novels have a unique place in math and physics education. Here are three of those reasons:</p>
<h2>Explaining complex concepts with rigor and fun</h2>
<p>Increasingly, schools are <a href="https://theconversation.com/textbooks-in-the-digital-world-78299">moving away from textbooks</a>, even though studies show that students learn better <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-enduring-power-of-print-for-learning-in-a-digital-world-84352">using print rather than digital formats</a>. Graphic novels offer the best of both worlds: a hybrid between modern and traditional media.</p>
<p>This integration of text with images and diagrams is especially <a href="https://theconversation.com/heroes-villains-biology-3-reasons-comic-books-are-great-science-teachers-143251">useful in STEM disciplines</a> that require quantitative reading and data analysis skills, like math and physics.</p>
<p>For example, our collaborator <a href="https://www.dordt.edu/people/jason-ho">Jason Ho, an assistant professor at Dordt University</a>, uses “<a href="https://maxthedemon.com">Max the Demon Vs Entropy of Doom</a>” to teach his physics students about entropy. This topic can be particularly difficult for students because it’s one of the first times when they can’t physically touch something in physics. Instead, students have to rely on math and diagrams to fill in their knowledge.</p>
<p><div data-react-class="Tweet" data-react-props="{"tweetId":"964876541174931457"}"></div></p>
<p>Rather than stressing over equations, Ho’s students focus on understanding the subject more conceptually. This approach helps build their intuition before diving into the algebra. They get a feeling for the fundamentals before they have to worry about equations.</p>
<p>After having taken Ho’s class, more than <a href="https://acmsonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/journal-and-proceedings-2023.pdf">85% of his students agreed</a> that they would recommend using graphic novels in STEM classes, and <a href="https://acmsonline.org/conferences/">90% found this particular use</a> of “Max the Demon” helpful for their learning. When strategically used, graphic novels can create a dynamic, engaging teaching environment even with nuanced, quantitative topics.</p>
<h2>Combating quantitative anxiety</h2>
<p>Students learning math and physics today are surrounded by <a href="https://theconversation.com/think-youre-bad-at-math-you-may-suffer-from-math-trauma-104209">math anxiety and trauma</a>, which often lead to their own negative associations with math. A student’s perception of math can be influenced by the attitudes of the role models around them – whether it’s <a href="https://theconversation.com/when-parents-with-high-math-anxiety-help-with-homework-children-learn-less-46841">a parent who is “not a math person”</a> or <a href="https://doi.org/10.20429/ijsotl.2021.150213">a teacher with a high level of math anxiety</a>.</p>
<p>Graphic novels can help make math more accessible not only for students themselves, but also for parents or students learning to be teachers.</p>
<p>In a geometry course one of us (Sarah) teaches, secondary education students don’t memorize formulas and fill out problem sheets. Instead, students read “<a href="https://gnclassroom.com/graphic-novel/who-killed-professor-x/">Who Killed Professor X?</a>”, a murder mystery in which all of the suspects are famous mathematicians. The suspects’ alibis are justified through problems from geometry, algebra and pre-calculus.</p>
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<iframe width="440" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/vATkt9xuA44?wmode=transparent&start=27" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe>
<figcaption><span class="caption">A peak inside the mathematical graphic novel ‘Who Killed Professor X?’.</span></figcaption>
</figure>
<p>While trying to understand the hidden geometry of suspect relationships, students often forget that they are doing math – focusing instead on poring over secret hints and notes needed to solve the mystery. </p>
<p>Although this is just one experience for these students, it can help change the narrative for students experiencing mathematical anxiety. It boosts their confidence and shows them how math can be fun – a lesson they can then impart to the next generation of students.</p>
<h2>Helping students learn and readers dream big</h2>
<p>In addition to being viewed favorably by students, graphic novels can enhance student learning by improving <a href="http://repository.unej.ac.id/handle/123456789/97529">written communication skills</a>, <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jaal.666">reading comprehension</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1598/JAAL.53.2.5">critical literacy skills</a>. And even outside the classroom, graphic novels support long-term memory for those who have diagnoses like <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/21504857.2019.1635175">dyslexia</a>. </p>
<p>Pause and think about your own experience – how do you learn about something new in science? </p>
<p>If you’re handed a textbook, it’s extremely unlikely that you’d read it cover to cover. And although the internet offers an enormous amount of math and physics content, it can be overwhelming to sift through hours and hours of videos to find the perfect one to get the “aha!” moment in learning.</p>
<p>Graphic novels provide a starting point for such <a href="https://gnclassroom.com/">a broad range of niche topics</a> that it’s impossible for anyone to be experts in them all. Want to learn about programming? Try the “<a href="https://gnclassroom.com/graphic-novel/secret-coders/">Secret Coders</a>” series. Want to understand more about quantum physics? Dive into “<a href="https://gnclassroom.com/graphic-novel/suspended-in-language/">Suspended in Language: Niels Bohr’s life, discoveries, and the century he shaped</a>.” Searching for more female role models in science? “<a href="https://gnclassroom.com/graphic-novel/astronauts-women-on-the-final-frontier/">Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier</a>” could be just what you’re looking for.</p>
<p>With all that they offer, graphic novels provide a compelling list of topics and narratives that can capture the attention of students today. We believe that the right set of graphic novels can inspire the next generation of scientists as much as any single individual can.</p><img src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/211171/count.gif" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" />
<p class="fine-print"><em><span>The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.</span></em></p>Graphic novels pair text and images to explain complex topics – from thermodynamics to abstract math – without alienating STEM-averse students.Sarah Klanderman, Assistant Professor of Mathematics, Marian UniversityJosha Ho, Adjunct Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science, Marian UniversityLicensed as Creative Commons – attribution, no derivatives.tag:theconversation.com,2011:article/1351142020-05-05T13:43:05Z2020-05-05T13:43:05Z4 things we’ve learned about math success that might surprise parents<figure><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/332066/original/file-20200501-42942-go7fsv.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&rect=47%2C228%2C5272%2C3133&q=45&auto=format&w=496&fit=clip" /><figcaption><span class="caption">The good news: your child can use their fingers and you can too. </span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">(Shutterstock)</span></span></figcaption></figure><p>School <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/30/coronavirus-scientists-caution-against-reopening-schools">closures due to conronavirus</a> have put parents in the challenging position of home-schooling their children.</p>
<p>In mathematics education programs for future math teachers, we often discuss the <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10857-012-9208-1">traditional classroom</a> that those studying to become teachers are familiar with. We’re interested in how their own experiences as students can influence their teaching.</p>
<p>Traditional modes of instruction have emphasized that math is best learned through <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/40247978">studying and memorizing alone, with the teacher demonstrating procedures and then checking students’ answers</a>.</p>
<p>If parents grew up with this style of instruction, their ideal home-math classroom might look like strict scheduling, workbooks, a child working alone in silence and parents telling children how to solve problems. But if parents enforce this approach, there could be conflicts and maybe even some crying. </p>
<p>But parents, like future educators, can also learn from newer approaches. Here are some practical tips for a different form of home learning. </p>
<h2>1. Talking about math</h2>
<p>Gone are the days of students sitting quietly while the math teacher does all the talking at the chalkboard. <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/749877">Discussion</a> is important in the mathematics classroom. </p>
<p>Parents should be explicit. Tell your child “we learn by sharing ideas and listening to each other.”</p>
<p>Model active listening skills. Show your child that you are listening by asking questions about what they said to clarify your understanding of their idea. Try saying “tell me more …” or asking “how do you know that?”</p>
<p>Try setting aside your own idea(s) so you can listen and build on their ideas. Instead of saying “yes, but …,” use “<a href="https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-78928-6_3">yes, and …</a>” to help children feel that they’re not being judged and their ideas are important.</p>
<figure class="align-center ">
<img alt="" src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/332071/original/file-20200501-42942-wr4tlc.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&fit=clip" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/332071/original/file-20200501-42942-wr4tlc.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=600&h=400&fit=crop&dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/332071/original/file-20200501-42942-wr4tlc.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=600&h=400&fit=crop&dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/332071/original/file-20200501-42942-wr4tlc.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=600&h=400&fit=crop&dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/332071/original/file-20200501-42942-wr4tlc.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&h=503&fit=crop&dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/332071/original/file-20200501-42942-wr4tlc.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=754&h=503&fit=crop&dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/332071/original/file-20200501-42942-wr4tlc.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=754&h=503&fit=crop&dpr=3 2262w" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px">
<figcaption>
<span class="caption">In today’s mathematics classrooms, discussion is important.</span>
<span class="attribution"><span class="source">(Shutterstock)</span></span>
</figcaption>
</figure>
<h2>2. Attitude</h2>
<p>Researchers have identified <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10857-009-9134-z?shared-article-renderer">three underlying interconnected aspects of childrens’ relationships</a> with math that impact how they engage with math: emotional disposition (“I like math”), perceived competence (“I am good at math”) and their vision of math: whether math is about problem solving and understanding or math is about memorization and regurgitation.</p>
<hr>
<p>
<em>
<strong>
Read more:
<a href="https://theconversation.com/mathematics-is-about-wonder-creativity-and-fun-so-lets-teach-it-that-way-120133">Mathematics is about wonder, creativity and fun, so let's teach it that way</a>
</strong>
</em>
</p>
<hr>
<p>Parents can set a positive attitude for children by being mindful not to say things like “I don’t like math” or “I’m not a math person.” Your child might think they don’t have a chance because <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/249054114_A_Quantitative_and_Qualitative_Study_of_Math_Anxiety_Among_Preservice_Teachers">you didn’t pass on a math mind</a>. </p>
<p>Academics have debunked common beliefs about the “<a href="https://www.ams.org/journals/notices/200102/rev-devlin.pdf">math gene</a>” and explain that there’s <a href="https://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr=&id=K1Ld7FgOdtoC&oi=fnd&pg=PT17&dq=%22math+gene%22+parent&ots=Bxk5UApbwY&sig=dMLYhCKH%20K7mHhHOvfy8SOEc_es&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=%22math%20gene%22%20parent&f=false">lots involved in being good at math</a>. Celebrate the process and not just the final answer. Give high fives for sharing solution strategies, developing a plan to tackle the problem and for not giving up.</p>
<p>Make it clear that <a href="https://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr=&id=bOGHDQAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PR9&dq=dweck+mindset+mistakes&ots=YMX--knDci&sig=y07leb0VLednZ4ZhScAAYsKCkyE#v=onepage&q=dweck%20mindset%20mistakes&f=false">making mistakes</a> is OK and can even be a good thing. Many highly successful people see mistakes as learning opportunities and an indication that learning is happening.</p>
<h2>3. Working in partnership</h2>
<p><a href="https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/knowledge-hub/engagement-through-partnership-students-partners-learning-and-teaching-higher">A partnership</a> is about working together and can include seeing the <a href="https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/We-are-the-Process%3A-Reflections-on-the-of-Power-in-Kehler-Verwoord/aeecc3e2e8e352474a24ce4ccd407f62629d6f56">teacher as a learner and the student as a teacher</a>. It isn’t about the teacher being “all-knowing” and making all the decisions. </p>
<p>Traditional math teaching, where the teacher assumes an authoritative role, is a major cause of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1365480214521457">math anxiety</a>. Researchers have found that not all <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2019.101784">math homework help</a> is beneficial. There is a difference between parents being controlling and being supportive.</p>
<p>With this in mind, wait for your child to ask for help. Try not to control everything. Focus on asking questions about their decisions that will help them figure out possible limitations and benefits of their decisions. </p>
<p>Let children fail. Failure can <a href="https://books.google.ca/books?id=q0VZwEZoniUC&lpg=PP1&dq=The%20Optimistic%20Child%3A%20A%20Proven%20Program%20to%20Safeguard%20Children%20Against%20Depression%20and%20Build%20Lifelong%20Resilience&lr&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false">build confidence</a>. Confidence can come from mastery; mastery can come from <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/40248303">practice</a>. Good practice includes analyzing what went wrong and what went right.</p>
<p>Don’t worry about being the expert. Be honest and say “I’m not sure. Let’s figure it out together.” </p>
<p>Start with <a href="https://books.google.ca/books?id=Irq913lEZ1QC&lpg=PR13&lr&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false">what children already know</a>. When your child is stuck, ask them to talk through what they are doing.</p>
<p>Take turns doing questions and talking about solution strategies.</p>
<p>Follow your child’s interests <a href="https://theconversation.com/eight-ways-to-keep-your-kids-smart-over-the-summer-break-100132">and ideas</a>. Let them take the lead, even if you think your approach is better.</p>
<figure class="align-center ">
<img alt="" src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/332073/original/file-20200501-42951-pxpcn5.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&fit=clip" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/332073/original/file-20200501-42951-pxpcn5.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=600&h=400&fit=crop&dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/332073/original/file-20200501-42951-pxpcn5.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=600&h=400&fit=crop&dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/332073/original/file-20200501-42951-pxpcn5.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=600&h=400&fit=crop&dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/332073/original/file-20200501-42951-pxpcn5.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&h=503&fit=crop&dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/332073/original/file-20200501-42951-pxpcn5.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=754&h=503&fit=crop&dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/332073/original/file-20200501-42951-pxpcn5.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=754&h=503&fit=crop&dpr=3 2262w" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px">
<figcaption>
<span class="caption">Focus on asking your child questions that will help them figure out possible limitations and benefits of their decisions.</span>
<span class="attribution"><span class="source">(Shutterstock)</span></span>
</figcaption>
</figure>
<h2>4. Basic math skills</h2>
<p>If you grew up with traditional math instruction and haven’t thought about math since your school days, it might surprise you to learn that there are multiple ways to solve problems.</p>
<p>You could ask your child to share their way of solving the problem and also share your way. </p>
<p>For instance: What is 24 x 6? </p>
<p>It’s OK if you’re looking for a pencil to do this: </p>
<p> 24<br>
<u>x 6</u><br>
144</p>
<p>But what are some other ways you might you figure it out? </p>
<p>Multiply 20 x 6 to get 120. Now multiply 4 x 6 to get 24. Add the two figures: 120 + 24 = 144.</p>
<p>Another way would be to focus on 25 x 6 to get 150. Now subtract 6 and you’ve got 144. </p>
<hr>
<p>
<em>
<strong>
Read more:
<a href="https://theconversation.com/the-new-math-how-to-support-your-child-in-elementary-school-87479">The 'new math': How to support your child in elementary school</a>
</strong>
</em>
</p>
<hr>
<p>In all math problems (including addition or subtraction), your child can use their fingers and you can too. </p>
<figure class="align-right ">
<img alt="" src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/327316/original/file-20200412-10562-6mjs1u.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=237&fit=clip" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/327316/original/file-20200412-10562-6mjs1u.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=600&h=450&fit=crop&dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/327316/original/file-20200412-10562-6mjs1u.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=600&h=450&fit=crop&dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/327316/original/file-20200412-10562-6mjs1u.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=600&h=450&fit=crop&dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/327316/original/file-20200412-10562-6mjs1u.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&h=566&fit=crop&dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/327316/original/file-20200412-10562-6mjs1u.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=754&h=566&fit=crop&dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/327316/original/file-20200412-10562-6mjs1u.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=754&h=566&fit=crop&dpr=3 2262w" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px">
<figcaption>
<span class="caption">Author Tina Rapke finds an occasion for everyday math in making cookies.</span>
<span class="attribution"><span class="source">(Shutterstock)</span></span>
</figcaption>
</figure>
<p>You can also look for opportunities to highlight math in daily activities. </p>
<p>One fun way is through baking. Arrange three rows of cookie dough with four cookies in each row. Ask how many cookies per batch or how many each family member will get if they share equally. </p>
<p>Being successful at <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5951/mathteacher.108.7.0543?casa_token=53fYsdfs758AAAAA:iROqe6Bs17ufC1uUB1x_ToGBlxgh-LgCEmMqSXgYT9cfbcLkdq0BdhWUjkxEfmYM5aLT__nM3eJ2CBiRa7EIwNPcR9W5BhbYspgB1oC4YDJaM2LWdp4#metadata_info_tab_contents">mental math</a> (like the arithmetic you do at the store) happens gradually over time. </p>
<p>Try focusing on basic math skills with your child for 10 minutes or less, every other day. </p>
<h2>The takeaway</h2>
<p>Think of quality over quantity. </p>
<p>If you want to support math learning at home based on math research: talk with your child, see learning as a partnership and make sure to celebrate their ideas. Your child may teach you something new. </p>
<p>We’d love to hear about how math has provoked families to slow down, have fun, go with the flow and connect.</p><img src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/135114/count.gif" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" />
<p class="fine-print"><em><span>Tina Rapke received funding from SSHRC: Partnership Engage Grants. </span></em></p><p class="fine-print"><em><span>Cristina De Simone does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.</span></em></p>Your cheat sheet for best practices in teaching math at home. Keep it positive and mask your shock when your child tells you there are many ways to multiply numbers.Tina Rapke, Associate Professor of Mathematics Education, York University, CanadaCristina De Simone, Middle School Teacher. PhD Mathematics Education Student, York University, CanadaLicensed as Creative Commons – attribution, no derivatives.tag:theconversation.com,2011:article/1042092018-11-01T10:50:19Z2018-11-01T10:50:19ZThink you’re bad at math? You may suffer from ‘math trauma’<figure><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/241706/original/file-20181022-105776-1wid285.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=496&fit=clip" /><figcaption><span class="caption">Even some teachers suffer from anxiety about math.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="source" href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/sad-schoolgirl-standing-front-blackboard-1129140110?src=WgczemL7OkqyPFeYExxWhQ-1-29">Undrey/shutterstock.com</a></span></figcaption></figure><p><em>Leer <a href="https://theconversation.com/crees-que-eres-malo-para-las-matematicas-puedes-sufrir-un-trauma-matematico-143507">en español</a></em></p>
<p>I teach people how to teach math, and I’ve been working in this field for 30 years. Across those decades, I’ve met many people who suffer from varying degrees of <a href="https://creativemaths.net/blog/maths-trauma-can-be-healed/">math trauma</a> – a form of debilitating mental shutdown when it comes to doing mathematics.</p>
<p>When people share their stories with me, there are common themes. These include someone telling them they were “not good at math,” panicking over timed math tests, or getting stuck on some math topic and struggling to move past it. The topics can be as broad as fractions or an entire class, such as Algebra or Geometry. </p>
<p>The notion of who is – and isn’t – a math person drives the <a href="https://blogs.uoregon.edu/goodatmath/files/2018/10/What-does-it-mean-to-be-good-at-math-28zia2u.png">research</a> <a href="http://scholar.google.com/citations?user=SrIuVNcAAAAJ&hl=en">I do</a> with my colleagues <a href="https://nau.academia.edu/ShannonSweeny/CurriculumVitae">Shannon Sweeny</a> and <a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=p2wrlqMAAAAJ&hl=en">Chris Willingham</a> with people earning their teaching degrees. </p>
<p>One of the biggest challenges U.S. math educators face is helping the <a href="https://scholarcommons.scu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1058&context=tepas">large number of elementary teachers who are dealing with math trauma</a>. Imagine being tasked with teaching children mathematics when it is one of your greatest personal fears.</p>
<p>Math trauma manifests as anxiety or dread, a debilitating fear of being wrong. This fear <a href="https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/why-americas-smartest-students-fail-math/">limits access to life paths</a> for many people, including school and career choices. There are many reasons people may develop negative associations with mathematics. The way students are positioned as “<a href="https://scholarship.claremont.edu/jhm/vol10/iss1/4/">good at math</a>” is often based on non-mathematical characteristics such as gender, race, language, or socioeconomic status. For example, Ebony McGee, an <a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=isOcSAEAAAAJ&hl=en">education researcher</a> at Vanderbilt University, describes both <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/283682372_Robust_and_Fragile_Mathematical_Identities_A_Framework_for_Exploring_Racialized_Experiences_and_High_Achievement_Among_Black_College_Students">fragile and robust mathematics identities</a> that Black engineering and mathematics college students developed in response to negative stereotypes about their ability to learn and do mathematics.</p>
<p>While math trauma has multiple sources, there are some that parents and teachers have power to influence directly: <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/07/09/math-misconceptions-education-reform-column/12430181/">outdated ideas of what it means to be good at math</a>. These include speed and accuracy, which were important in decades past when <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe3XzydWHhI">humans were actual computers</a>. </p>
<p>But <a href="https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/07/03/36boaler.h31.html">research has confirmed</a> what many people share with me anecdotally: Tying speed with computation debilitates learners. People who struggle to complete a timed test of math facts often experience fear, which <a href="https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03194059">shuts down their working memory</a>. This makes it all but impossible to think which reinforces the idea that a person just can’t do math – that they are not a math person. </p>
<p>What’s more, students who succeed at tests of timed math facts may believe that being good at math means simply being fast and accurate at calculating. This belief can lead to a <a href="https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/09/09/teachers-nurture-growth-mindsets-in-math.html">tenuous math identity</a>. Students fear revealing they don’t know something or aren’t that fast, so may shy away from more challenging work. No one wins.</p>
<p>The myth that fast recall of basic math facts is good for learning has deep and pernicious roots. It comes from the best of intentions – who wouldn’t want kids to be good at calculating? But <a href="https://www.nctm.org/Standards-and-Positions/Position-Statements/Procedural-Fluency-in-Mathematics/">research</a> shows that fact fluency – the ability to easily recall facts, like 3 x 5 = 15 – is best developed from first making sense of arithmetic operations. In other words, the first step in building a mathematical memory is understanding how that math works.</p>
<figure class="align-center zoomable">
<a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/242186/original/file-20181025-71011-1cdj4ce.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=1000&fit=clip"><img alt="" src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/242186/original/file-20181025-71011-1cdj4ce.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&fit=clip" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/242186/original/file-20181025-71011-1cdj4ce.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=600&h=468&fit=crop&dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/242186/original/file-20181025-71011-1cdj4ce.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=600&h=468&fit=crop&dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/242186/original/file-20181025-71011-1cdj4ce.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=600&h=468&fit=crop&dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/242186/original/file-20181025-71011-1cdj4ce.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&h=588&fit=crop&dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/242186/original/file-20181025-71011-1cdj4ce.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=754&h=588&fit=crop&dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/242186/original/file-20181025-71011-1cdj4ce.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=754&h=588&fit=crop&dpr=3 2262w" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px"></a>
<figcaption>
<span class="caption">A deeper understanding of the concepts like multiplication and division allow people to see patterns in numbers. For example, 3, 5 and 15 are in a triangular relationship, where 3 x 5 = 15, 5 x 3 = 15, 15 ÷ 5 = 3, and 15 ÷ 3 = 5.</span>
<span class="attribution"><span class="source">Jennifer Ruef</span>, <a class="license" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/">CC BY</a></span>
</figcaption>
</figure>
<p>Skipping the sensemaking step makes for fragile understanding and <a href="https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/blooms-taxonomy/">cognitively expensive memorization</a>. When someone only memorizes, <a href="https://hechingerreport.org/memorizers-are-the-lowest-achievers-and-other-common-core-math-surprises/">every new fact is like an island unto itself, and is more readily forgotten</a>. In contrast, understanding patterns in math facts compresses the cognitive load required to recall related facts. Sensemaking promotes deep, robust and flexible understanding, allowing people to apply what they know to new problems.</p>
<p>So what can <a href="https://illuminations.nctm.org/uploadedFiles/Activities_Home/FamilyGuide_FullText.pdf">parents</a> and teachers do to support fact fluency? </p>
<p>First, find the wonder and joy. <a href="https://www.youcubed.org/">Games and puzzles</a> that get people playing with numbers, such as Sudoku, KenKen or <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWOmJ5xCLw0">certain card games</a>, create an intellectual need to use math facts that helps kids develop fact fluency. Asking kids to explain their thinking – using words, pictures or objects – validates the importance of their ideas. </p>
<p>Reframe mistakes as explorations. Not having a correct answer doesn’t mean all thinking is incorrect. Asking kids to explain their thinking also helps in understanding what they know now, and what they might learn next. Questions about how a kid got an answer can get them thinking about what does not quite work and is worthy of revision. When you ask these questions, it’s good to have a poker face; if you broadcast that an answer is wrong or right, it can reinforce the belief that only right answers count. </p>
<p>Second, do no harm. It’s important that parents <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/24/well/family/fending-off-math-anxiety.html">avoid giving kids messages that they are not math people</a>. This can have a <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2011.12.012">negative impact</a> on kids’ beliefs about their own ability to learn. Also, beware claims that kids must suffer to learn mathematics. </p>
<p>For many adults, today’s math classes are very different from those we experienced. U.S. schools have moved away from speed and accuracy – sometimes called “drill and kill” – and toward discussing and making sense of mathematics. Mathematics teacher educators are in <a href="https://www.nctm.org/uploadedFiles/Standards_and_Positions/PtAExecutiveSummary.pdf">agreement</a> that these are good things. Look for the deeper meaning in what your child is learning, knowing that deeper understanding comes from connecting <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwYYa5h95mg">multiple ways to solve problems</a>.</p>
<p>If you recognize that you are a survivor of math trauma, take heart. You are not alone, and there are ways to heal. It starts with understanding that mathematics is broad and beautiful – most of us are <a href="https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/article/You-re-all-math-people-you-just-12236409.php">much more mathematical than we think</a>.</p>
<p><em>Editor’s note: This article was updated on July 2, 2020 to cite the work on math learning by education researcher Ebony McGee.</em></p><img src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/104209/count.gif" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" />
<p class="fine-print"><em><span>Jennifer Ruef does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.</span></em></p>Many Americans feel anxiety or dread when it comes to math. A lot of that anxiety starts in childhood.Jennifer Ruef, Assistant Professor of Education Studies, University of OregonLicensed as Creative Commons – attribution, no derivatives.tag:theconversation.com,2011:article/865092017-11-17T01:33:38Z2017-11-17T01:33:38ZMillions, billions, trillions: How to make sense of numbers in the news<figure><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/194864/original/file-20171115-19829-q98wr6.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=496&fit=clip" /><figcaption><span class="caption">Breaking down the big numbers.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="source" href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/100-us-dollar-cents-abstract-background-741348124?src=7ABuTcHgqkKIzqBIby6dPg-1-2">helen_g/Shutterstock.com</a></span></figcaption></figure><p>National discussions of crucial importance to ordinary citizens – such as funding for scientific and medical research, bailouts of financial institutions and the current Republican tax proposals – inevitably involve dollar figures in the millions, billions and trillions. </p>
<p>Unfortunately, <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00508">math anxiety is widespread</a> even among intelligent, highly educated people.</p>
<p>Complicating the issue further, citizens emotionally undeterred by billions and trillions are nonetheless likely to be ill-equipped for meaningful analysis because <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cogs.12028">most people don’t correctly intuit large numbers</a>.</p>
<p>Happily, anyone who can understand tens, hundreds and thousands can develop habits and skills to accurately navigate millions, billions and trillions. Stay with me, especially if you’re math-averse: I’ll show you how to use school arithmetic, common knowledge and a little imagination to train your emotional sense for the large numbers shaping our daily lives.</p>
<h2>Estimates and analogies</h2>
<p>Unlike Star Trek’s Mr. Spock, scientists and mathematicians are not exacting mental calculators, but habitual estimators and analogy-makers. We use “back of the envelope” calculations to orient our intuition. </p>
<p>The bailout of AIG after the mortgage-backed securities crisis cost <a href="http://money.cnn.com/news/storysupplement/economy/bailouttracker/index.html">more than US$125 billion</a>. The <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2016/apr/03/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-panama-papers">Panama Papers</a> document <a href="http://www.newsweek.com/panama-papers-top-ten-tax-havens-where-money-hidden-444512">upward of $20 trillion</a> hidden in a dark labyrinth of shell companies and other tax shelters over the past 40 years. (The recently published <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/nov/05/paradise-papers-leak-reveals-secrets-of-world-elites-hidden-wealth">Paradise Papers</a> paint an even more extensive picture.) On the bright side, we recovered $165 million in bonuses from AIG executives. That’s something, right?</p>
<p>Let’s find out: On a scale where a million dollars is one penny, the AIG bailout cost taxpayers $1,250. The Panama Papers document at least $200,000 missing from the world economy. On the bright side, we recovered $1.65 in executive bonuses.</p>
<p>In an innumerate world, this is what passes for fiscal justice.</p>
<p>Let’s run through that again: If one penny represents a million, then one thousand pennies, or $10, represents a billion. On the same scale, one million pennies, or $10,000, represents a trillion. When assessing a trillion-dollar expenditure, debating a billion dollars is quibbling over $10 on a $10,000 purchase.</p>
<p>Here, we’ve scaled monetary amounts so that “1,000,000” comprises one unit, then equated that unit to a familiar – and paltry – quantity, one penny. Scaling numbers to the realm of the familiar harnesses our intuition toward understanding relative sizes. </p>
<p>In a sound bite, a savings of $200 million might sound comparable to a $20 trillion cost. Scaling reveals the truth: One is a $2 (200-cent) beverage, the other the $200,000 price of an American home.</p>
<h2>If time were money</h2>
<p>Suppose you landed a job paying $1 per second, or $3,600 per hour. (I assume your actual pay, like mine, is a tiny fraction of this. Indulge the fantasy!) For simplicity, assume you’re paid 24/7. </p>
<p>At this rate, it would take one million seconds to acquire $1 million. How long is that in familiar terms? In round numbers, a million seconds is 17,000 minutes. That’s 280 hours, or 11.6 days. At $1 per second, chances are you can retire comfortably at the end of a month or few.</p>
<p>At the same job, it takes 11,600 days, or about 31.7 years, to accumulate $1 billion: Doable, but you’d better start young. </p>
<p>To acquire $1 trillion takes 31,700 years. This crummy job doesn’t pay enough!</p>
<p>This analogy gives a taste for the absolute size of a billion, and perhaps of a trillion. It also shows the utter impossibility of an ordinary worker earning $1 billion. No job pays a round-the-clock hourly wage of $3,600.</p>
<h2>Nice work if you can get it</h2>
<p>Let’s examine the wealth of actual multi-billionaires. Our calculations prove that they acquired more than $1 per second over long intervals. How much more?</p>
<p>Testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 27, William Browder, an American-born businessman with extensive Russian dealings, <a href="https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/07-26-17%20Browder%20Testimony.pdf">estimated</a> that Vladmir Putin controls assets of $200 billion. Let’s assume this figure is substantially correct and that Putin’s meteoric rise began 17 years ago, when he first became president of Russia. What is Putin’s average income?</p>
<p>Seventeen years is about 540 million seconds; $200 billion divided by this is … wow, $370 per second. $1,340,000 per hour. Yet even at this colossal rate, acquiring $1 trillion takes 85 years.</p>
<p>The Panama Papers document some $20 trillion – the combined fortunes of one hundred Vladimir Putins – sequestered in shell companies, untaxed and untraceable. Though the rate of leakage has surely increased over time, for simplicity let’s assume this wealth has bled steadily from the global economy, an annual loss around $500 billion. </p>
<p>How much is this in familiar terms? To find out, divide $500 billion by 31.6 million seconds. Conservatively speaking, the Panama Papers document an ongoing loss averaging $16,000 per second, around the clock, for 40 years.</p>
<h2>Fighting over scraps</h2>
<p>American cities are now vying for a <a href="https://www.amazon.com/b?ie=UTF8&node=17044620011">$5 billion Amazon headquarters</a>, a windfall to transform the local economy lucky enough to win the contract. At the same time, the world economy hemorrhages that amount into a fiscal black hole every few days. Merely stemming this Niagara (not recovering the money already lost) would amount to one hundred new Amazon headquarters per year.</p>
<p>The root cause of our economic plight looms in plain sight when we know the proper scale on which to look. By overcoming math phobia, wielding simple arithmetic, refusing to be muddled by “gazillions,” we become better citizens, avoiding squabbling over pennies when tens of thousands of dollars are missing.</p><img src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/86509/count.gif" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" />
<p class="fine-print"><em><span>Andrew D. Hwang does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.</span></em></p>Today’s news can often involve mind-bogglingly large numbers. A math professor shares some tricks for understanding it all.Andrew D. Hwang, Associate Professor of Mathematics, College of the Holy CrossLicensed as Creative Commons – attribution, no derivatives.tag:theconversation.com,2011:article/649762016-09-08T20:02:42Z2016-09-08T20:02:42ZTeaching maths – what does the evidence say actually works?<figure><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/136854/original/image-20160907-25260-1mqs01j.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=496&fit=clip" /><figcaption><span class="caption">Teachers can help parents support their child's maths learning at home.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">from www.shutterstock.com</span></span></figcaption></figure><p><em>In our series, <a href="https://theconversation.com/au/topics/better-teachers-30749">Better Teachers</a>, we’ll explore how to improve teacher education in Australia. We’ll look at what the evidence says on a range of themes including how to raise the status of the profession and measure and improve teacher quality.</em></p>
<hr>
<p>“<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/mar/26/reckon-you-were-born-without-a-brain-for-maths-highly-unlikely?CMP=share_btn_link">I’m just so bad at maths!</a>” Too often we hear that claim uttered in fear and frustration. </p>
<p>It’s not just students who say this, but also their parents and, in some cases, their teachers, particularly in primary schools.</p>
<p>Research on the topic of maths anxiety is inconclusive and scarce. But there are a few things we know. </p>
<p>A <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26779093">recent study</a> found that “maths anxiety and maths performance can influence one another in a vicious cycle”. Research is unclear as to whether poor maths performance triggers maths anxiety, or whether maths anxiety reduces maths performance. It seems likely to be a combination of both negatively reinforcing each other.</p>
<p>Psychologists have found there can be a very real physical response to maths in both adults and children. This includes the <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21707166">release of stress hormones like cortisol</a>, which are characteristic of the fight or flight response. </p>
<p>One <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3485285/">study even found that anticipating</a> a maths test activates the brain’s <a href="http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20150619-do-you-have-maths-anxiety">“pain matrix</a>” – the regions that might light up if you had injured yourself.</p>
<p>It is an affliction that appears to affect females more than males. Cultural expectations may be to blame – <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23985576">girls are more likely to catch maths anxiety</a> (particularly from female teachers), perhaps because of <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23087633">stereotypes that girls are “not very good” at maths</a>.</p>
<h2>What works in maths teaching?</h2>
<p>When maths teachers see students struggling, they often give more of the same work, rather than going back and plugging the hole or gap in understanding. </p>
<p>No matter what age the student, before moving on, the teacher should always go back to the preceding skill, or take the concept back to the hands-on concrete phase, until the student has confidently mastered that skill or concept.</p>
<p><strong>Learning the language of maths</strong></p>
<p>It is important to teach children that maths is a language of its own. If students can’t speak the language of maths fluently, they don’t really understand the fundamental concepts. </p>
<p>Sentence frames, co-operative learning tasks and frequent problem-solving linked to real-world examples ensure students <a href="https://%20www.ascd.org/publications/books/.../Mathematics-as-Language.aspx">“talk” maths fluently</a> and accurately to gain mastery over the language of maths. </p>
<p>Using a sentence frame such as “A ______ has four sides and four corners” or “one metre is equal to ___ centimetres” during warm-ups or plenary sessions allows students to develop fluency in maths vocabulary and a deeper understanding of the targeted mathematical concepts.</p>
<p><strong>More emphasis on formative assessment</strong></p>
<p>To reduce maths test anxiety, teachers should put more emphasis on <a href="http://edglossary.org/formative-assessment/">formative assessment</a> – on-the-spot monitoring and feedback – rather than relying mainly on summative assessment where a student is assessed at the end of a period of learning. </p>
<p>Giving specific, purposeful and timely feedback to maximise learning opportunities is more effective than missing key learning opportunities waiting for children to fail an end-of-unit assignment.</p>
<p><strong>Mastering maths concepts</strong></p>
<p>Being able to give students many opportunities to <a href="https://research.acer.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1022&context=aer">practise and master</a> the concrete, pictorial and abstract phases of development for each maths concept is essential for them to learn successfully. </p>
<p><strong>Understand which level each student is at</strong></p>
<p><a href="http://www.apa.org/monitor/2010/07-08/gender-gap.aspx">Some research</a> suggests that girls rely more on manipulatives – using concrete materials to support their problem-solving – and that boys move on more quickly to mental cognitive strategies, such as mental strategies like doubles or bridge to ten. </p>
<p>Regular, informative assessment ensures the teacher has evidence of what each student knows and what they need to learn next when they are <a href="http://grattan.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/827-Targeted-Teaching.pdf">ready to move on</a>.</p>
<p><strong>Adapt teaching and resources</strong></p>
<p>Effective maths teachers are able to <a href="http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/inspire/research/different_math.pdf">differentiate their teaching practices</a>, curriculum and resources to ensure all students are accessing the maths curriculum, feeling sufficiently challenged, but not overly anxious, and working to grow their potential in learning maths.</p>
<figure class="align-center ">
<img alt="" src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/137022/original/image-20160908-25253-1fzs6l0.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&fit=clip" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/137022/original/image-20160908-25253-1fzs6l0.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=600&h=400&fit=crop&dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/137022/original/image-20160908-25253-1fzs6l0.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=600&h=400&fit=crop&dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/137022/original/image-20160908-25253-1fzs6l0.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=600&h=400&fit=crop&dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/137022/original/image-20160908-25253-1fzs6l0.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&h=503&fit=crop&dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/137022/original/image-20160908-25253-1fzs6l0.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=754&h=503&fit=crop&dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/137022/original/image-20160908-25253-1fzs6l0.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=754&h=503&fit=crop&dpr=3 2262w" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px">
<figcaption>
<span class="caption">Some states are moving towards appointing specialist maths teachers in primary schools.</span>
<span class="attribution"><span class="source">from www.shutterstock.com</span></span>
</figcaption>
</figure>
<h2>Do we need specialist maths teachers in primary school?</h2>
<p>In some states, such as <a href="https://www.teach.nsw.edu.au/exploreteaching/types-of-teachers/specialist-teachers">New South Wales</a>, there is a move to appoint specialist maths teachers in primary schools. </p>
<p>On the surface, this appears to be a tempting solution to raising student performance in maths, but what is the price to be paid? </p>
<p>The primary school system of the generalist classroom teacher intentionally differs from secondary schooling in order to meet the social and emotional needs of young children, as well as their academic needs. </p>
<p>Generalist teachers take responsibility for developing the whole child. A focus on coaching and feedback for primary teachers to improve their mathematics instruction would ensure the learning of maths remains the responsibility of everyone in a school. It would also combat the myth that some people simply can’t do maths. </p>
<p>The federal government has committed A$54 million over four years to the <a href="http://archive.industry.gov.au/ministerarchive2013/chrisevans/mediareleases/pages/investinginscienceandmathsforasmarterfuture.aspx.htm">Investing in Science and Maths for a Smarter Future</a> initiative. In 2012, the Office for Learning and Teaching funded five research projects on the teaching of maths and science. These projects were funded in response to recommendations from Ian Chubb, then Australia’s chief scientist, in his <a href="http://www.chiefscientist.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/Office-of-the-Chief-Scientist-MES-Report-8-May-2012.pdf">2012 report</a> Mathematics, Engineering and Science: in the national interest.</p>
<p><a href="http://remstep.org.au/about-the-project/">One of these projects</a> focuses on the training of specialist maths and science teachers in primary and secondary schools. Findings from these projects are due to be delivered in 2017.</p>
<h2>Confident maths teachers, confident maths students</h2>
<p>Not all students will enjoy learning maths. But this is more likely to happen if maths is well taught from early childhood. And the key to confident maths students is confident teachers.</p>
<p>An instructional practices survey at a <a href="http://www.det.wa.edu.au/schoolsonline/ind_rvw_rpt.do?schoolID=5824&pageID=AD28">primary school in Western Australia</a> found that 40% of teachers believed their confidence in teaching maths would benefit from explicit coaching and feedback. </p>
<p>In response to this, the school maths leadership team designed a series of professional learning sessions to build staff confidence; created mentors for other staff members to help reduce their levels of anxiety about teaching maths; and ran workshops for parents every few weeks to inform them of the latest research in maths, the common areas that children are having difficulty with, and provide practical ways that parents can support their children’s maths learning at home. </p>
<p>By informing parents about key maths skills children are learning at school, teachers showed parents how everyday home activities, such as cooking and shopping, can help reinforce mathematical thinking. </p>
<p>Parents were made aware of the subliminal messages they might send to their children when they say things like, “It’s ok you’re no good at maths, because I wasn’t either.” Parents were then given alternative language to use with their children when they talked about maths.</p>
<p>As a result, teachers and parents at the school have gained confidence in their ability to teach maths and this is reflected in the students’ learning and attitude to maths. </p>
<p>The school is analysing a range of data to see how improving students’ confidence in learning maths can translate to improvements in maths performance. </p>
<p><a href="https://grattan.edu.au/report/targeted-teaching-how-better-use-of-data-can-improve-student-learning/">Research from the Grattan Institute</a> reinforces the point that teachers and schools need to collect and use evidence of students’ learning achievements and progress over time to know what works to improve student learning and to change what doesn’t. </p>
<h2>Top tips for improving teaching in maths</h2>
<p>To improve maths teaching, teachers should do the following:</p>
<ul>
<li><p>If they suffer from maths anxiety, don’t suffer alone. Identify the sources of anxiety and seek help from mentors and coaches to improve knowledge of maths concepts. Then use this expertise to build a broader repertoire of effective maths teaching strategies.</p></li>
<li><p>Demonstrate a <a href="https://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve?language=en">growth mindset</a> to students in their attitude towards teaching and learning maths.</p></li>
<li><p>Over time, regularly collect and <a href="https://grattan.edu.au/report/targeted-teaching-how-better-use-of-data-can-improve-student-learning/">analyse a range of evidence</a> for each student’s individual achievement and progress to understand what each student knows and what they are ready to learn next.</p></li>
<li><p>Join a <a href="http://www.aamt.edu.au/">professional maths teaching association</a> and/or professional learning community to engage in regular discussion with other teachers about what teaching strategies are working for particular students and what are not.</p></li>
</ul>
<p><em>• This piece was co-authored by Jacki McMahon, teacher at Makybe Rise Primary School and recent winner of a national ChooseMaths 16 teaching award, and Steph McDonald, principal of Makybe Rise Primary School in Western Australia.</em></p>
<p><em>• <a href="https://theconversation.com/au/topics/better-teachers-30749">Read more</a> articles in the series</em></p><img src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/64976/count.gif" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" />
<p class="fine-print"><em><span>Claire Brown received funding from the Higher Education, Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) to implement and research the Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID) program in Australia. That funding has now ended.</span></em></p>Here are some strategies that can help boost both teachers’ and their students’ confidence in maths.Dr Claire Brown, Associate Director, The Victoria Institute; National Director, AVID Australia, Victoria UniversityLicensed as Creative Commons – attribution, no derivatives.tag:theconversation.com,2011:article/465852015-09-09T10:25:07Z2015-09-09T10:25:07ZThe Common Core is today’s New Math – which is actually a good thing<figure><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/94197/original/image-20150908-4358-zdmhft.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=496&fit=clip" /><figcaption><span class="caption">Change can be a good thing – really.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="source" href="http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-182868605/stock-photo-frustrated-father-throws-up-his-hands-in-despair-frustrated-elementary-age-boy-lays-his-head-on.html">Homework image via www.shutterstock.com.</a></span></figcaption></figure><p>Math can’t catch a break. These days, people on both ends of the political spectrum are lining up to deride the <a href="http://www.corestandards.org/">Common Core standards</a>, a set of guidelines for K-12 education in reading and mathematics. The Common Core standards outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. States don’t have to adopt the standards, although many did in an effort to receive funds from President Obama’s <a href="http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/index.html">Race to the Top</a> initiative.</p>
<p><a href="http://www.usnews.com/news/special-reports/a-guide-to-common-core/articles/2014/02/27/who-is-fighting-against-common-core">Conservatives</a> oppose the guidelines because they generally dislike any suggestion that the federal government might have a role to play in public education at the state and local level; these standards, then, are perceived as a threat to local control.</p>
<p><a href="https://www.laprogressive.com/fighting-common-core/">Liberals</a>, mostly via teachers’ unions, decry the use of the standards and the associated assessments to evaluate classroom instructors.</p>
<p>And parents of all persuasions are panicked by their sudden inability to help their children with their homework. Even <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/louis-c-k-against-the-common-core">comedian Louis CK got in on the discussion</a> (via Twitter; he has since deactivated his account). </p>
<blockquote>
<p>My kids used to love math. Now it makes them cry. Thanks standardized testing and common core!
— Louis CK (@louisck) April 28 2014</p>
</blockquote>
<p>In the middle are millions of American schoolchildren who are often confused and frustrated by these “new” ways of teaching mathematics.</p>
<p>Thing is, we’ve been down this path before.</p>
<h2>The old New Math</h2>
<p>When the Soviets launched Sputnik in 1957, the United States went into panic mode. Our schools needed to emphasize math and science so that we wouldn’t fall behind the Soviet Union and its allegedly superior scientists. In 1958, President Eisenhower signed the <a href="http://www.britannica.com/topic/National-Defense-Education-Act">National Defense Education Act</a>, which poured money into the American education system at all levels. </p>
<p>One result of this was the so-called New Math, which <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secondary_School_Mathematics_Curriculum_Improvement_Study#Curriculum">focused more on conceptual understanding of mathematics</a> over rote memorization of arithmetic. Set theory took a central role, forcing students to think of numbers as sets of objects rather than abstract symbols to be manipulated. This is actually how numbers are constructed logically in an advanced undergraduate mathematics course on real analysis, but it may not necessarily be the best way to communicate ideas like addition to schoolchildren. Arithmetic using number bases other than 10 also entered the scene. This was famously spoofed by <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Lehrer">Tom Lehrer</a> in his song “New Math.”</p>
<figure>
<iframe width="440" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UIKGV2cTgqA?wmode=transparent&start=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe>
<figcaption><span class="caption">This 60’s song about New Math gives us a glimpse of what the ‘old math’ was like.</span></figcaption>
</figure>
<p>I attended elementary school in the 1970s, so I missed New Math’s implementation, and it was largely gone by the time I got started. But the way Lehrer tries to explain how subtraction “used to be done” made no sense to me at first (I did figure it out after a minute). In fact, the New Math method he ridicules is how children of my generation – and many of the Common Core-protesting parents of today – learned to do it, even if some of us don’t really understand what the whole borrowing thing is conceptually. Clearly some of the New Math ideas took root, and math education is better for it. For example, given the ubiquity of computers in modern life, it’s useful for today’s students to learn to do binary arithmetic – adding and subtracting numbers in base 2 just as a computer does. </p>
<p>The New Math fell into disfavor mostly because of complaints from parents and teachers. Parents were unhappy because they couldn’t understand their children’s homework. Teachers objected because they were often unprepared to instruct their students in the new methods. In short, it was the <em>implementation</em> of these new concepts that led to the failure, more than the curriculum itself.</p>
<figure class="align-center zoomable">
<a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/94201/original/image-20150908-14047-1q4g6nd.JPG?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=1000&fit=clip"><img alt="" src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/94201/original/image-20150908-14047-1q4g6nd.JPG?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&fit=clip" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/94201/original/image-20150908-14047-1q4g6nd.JPG?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=600&h=427&fit=crop&dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/94201/original/image-20150908-14047-1q4g6nd.JPG?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=600&h=427&fit=crop&dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/94201/original/image-20150908-14047-1q4g6nd.JPG?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=600&h=427&fit=crop&dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/94201/original/image-20150908-14047-1q4g6nd.JPG?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&h=536&fit=crop&dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/94201/original/image-20150908-14047-1q4g6nd.JPG?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=754&h=536&fit=crop&dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/94201/original/image-20150908-14047-1q4g6nd.JPG?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=754&h=536&fit=crop&dpr=3 2262w" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px"></a>
<figcaption>
<span class="caption">Give us our New Math!</span>
</figcaption>
</figure>
<h2>Those who ignore history…</h2>
<p>In 1983, President Reagan’s National Commission on Excellence in Education released its report, <a href="http://www2.ed.gov/pubs/NatAtRisk/index.html">A Nation at Risk</a>, which asserted that American schools were “failing” and suggested various measures to right the ship. Since then, American schoolchildren and their teachers have been bombarded with various reform initiatives, privatization efforts have been launched and charter schools established.</p>
<p>Whether or not the nation’s public schools are actually failing is a matter of serious debate; indeed, many of the claims made in A Nation at Risk were <a href="http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ482502">debunked</a> by statisticians at Sandia National Laboratories a few years after the report’s release. But the general notion that our public schools are “bad” persists, especially among politicians and business groups. </p>
<p>Enter Common Core. Launched in 2009 by a consortium of states, the idea sounds reasonable enough – public school learning objectives should be more uniform nationally. That is, what students learn in math or reading at each grade level should not vary state by state. That way, colleges and employers will know what high school graduates have been taught, and it will be easier to compare students from across the country. </p>
<p>The guidelines are just that. There is no set curriculum attached to them; they are merely a list of concepts that students should be expected to master at each grade level. For example, here are the <a href="http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Content/3/NBT/">standards</a> in Grade 3 for Number and Operations in Base Ten:</p>
<ul>
<li><p>Use place value understanding and properties of operations to perform multi-digit arithmetic.</p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Content/3/NBT/A/1/">CCSS.Math.Content.3.NBT.A.1</a>
Use place value understanding to round whole numbers to the nearest 10 or 100.</p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Content/3/NBT/A/2/">CCSS.Math.Content.3.NBT.A.2</a>
Fluently add and subtract within 1,000 using strategies and algorithms based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction.</p></li>
<li><p><a href="http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Content/3/NBT/A/3/">CCSS.Math.Content.3.NBT.A.3</a>
Multiply one-digit whole numbers by multiples of 10 in the range 10-90 (eg, 9 × 80, 5 × 60) using strategies based on place value and properties of operations.</p></li>
</ul>
<p>There is a footnote that “a range of algorithms may be used” to help students complete these tasks. In other words, teachers can explain various methods to actually accomplish the mathematical task at hand. There is nothing controversial about these topics, and indeed it’s not controversial that they’re things that students should be able to do at that age.</p>
<p>However, some of the new methods being taught for doing arithmetic have caused confusion for parents, causing them to take to social media in frustration. Take the 32 - 12 problem, for example:</p>
<figure class="align-center zoomable">
<a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/93956/original/image-20150904-14609-18h7ni1.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=1000&fit=clip"><img alt="" src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/93956/original/image-20150904-14609-18h7ni1.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&fit=clip" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/93956/original/image-20150904-14609-18h7ni1.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=600&h=800&fit=crop&dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/93956/original/image-20150904-14609-18h7ni1.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=600&h=800&fit=crop&dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/93956/original/image-20150904-14609-18h7ni1.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=600&h=800&fit=crop&dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/93956/original/image-20150904-14609-18h7ni1.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&h=1005&fit=crop&dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/93956/original/image-20150904-14609-18h7ni1.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=754&h=1005&fit=crop&dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/93956/original/image-20150904-14609-18h7ni1.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=754&h=1005&fit=crop&dpr=3 2262w" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px"></a>
<figcaption>
<span class="caption">Just because you didn’t learn it that way doesn’t make it inscrutable or wrong.</span>
</figcaption>
</figure>
<p>Once again, it’s the <em>implementation</em> that’s causing the problem. Most parents (people age 30-45, mostly), remembering the math books of our youth filled with pages of exercises like this, immediately jump to the “Old Fashion” (sic) algorithm shown. The stuff at the bottom looks like gibberish, and given many adults’ <a href="https://theconversation.com/when-parents-with-high-math-anxiety-help-with-homework-children-learn-less-46841">tendency toward math phobia/anxiety</a>, they immediately throw up their hands and claim this is nonsense.</p>
<p>Except that it isn’t. In fact, we all do arithmetic like this in our heads all the time. Say you are buying a scone at a bakery for breakfast and the total price is US$2.60. You hand the cashier a $10 bill. How much change do you get? Now, you do <em>not</em> perform the standard algorithm in your head. You first note that you’d need another 40 cents to get to the next dollar, making $3, and then you’d need $7 to get up to $10, so your change is $7.40. That’s all that’s going on at the bottom of the page in the picture above. Your children can’t explain this to you because they don’t know that you weren’t taught this explicitly, and your child’s teacher can’t send home a primer for you either.</p>
<figure class="align-center zoomable">
<a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/94200/original/image-20150908-15659-ep1zt2.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=1000&fit=clip"><img alt="" src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/94200/original/image-20150908-15659-ep1zt2.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&fit=clip" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/94200/original/image-20150908-15659-ep1zt2.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=600&h=400&fit=crop&dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/94200/original/image-20150908-15659-ep1zt2.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=600&h=400&fit=crop&dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/94200/original/image-20150908-15659-ep1zt2.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=600&h=400&fit=crop&dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/94200/original/image-20150908-15659-ep1zt2.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&h=503&fit=crop&dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/94200/original/image-20150908-15659-ep1zt2.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=754&h=503&fit=crop&dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/94200/original/image-20150908-15659-ep1zt2.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=754&h=503&fit=crop&dpr=3 2262w" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px"></a>
<figcaption>
<span class="caption">New ways to learn can be better for students – if rolled out appropriately.</span>
<span class="attribution"><a class="source" href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/departmentofed/9610695698">US Department of Education</a>, <a class="license" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/">CC BY</a></span>
</figcaption>
</figure>
<h2>Better intuition about math, better problem-solving</h2>
<p>As an instructor of college-level mathematics, I view this focus on conceptual understanding and multiple strategies for solving problems as a welcome change. Doing things this way can help build intuition about the size of answers and help with estimation. College students can compute answers to homework problems to 10 decimal places, but ask them to ballpark something without a calculator and I get blank stares. Ditto for conceptual understanding – for instance, students can evaluate <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integral">integrals</a> with relative ease, but building one as a limit of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riemann_sum">Riemann sums</a> to solve an actual problem is often beyond their reach.</p>
<p>This is frustrating because I know that my colleagues and I focus on these notions when we introduce these topics, but they fade quickly from students’ knowledge base as they shift their attention to solving problems for exams. And, to be fair, since the K-12 math curriculum is chopped up into discrete chunks of individual topics for ease of standardized testing assessment, it’s often difficult for students to develop the problem-solving abilities they need for success in higher-level math, science and engineering work. Emphasizing more conceptual understanding at an early age will hopefully lead to better problem-solving skills later. At least that’s the rationale behind the standards.</p>
<p>Alas, Common Core is in danger of being abandoned. Some states have already <a href="http://academicbenchmarks.com/common-core-state-adoption-map/">dropped the standards</a> (Indiana and South Carolina, for example), looking to replace them with something else. But these actions are largely a result of mistaken conflations: that the standards represent a federal imposition of curriculum on local schools, that the <a href="http://www.parcconline.org/about">standardized tests</a> used to evaluate students <em>are</em> the Common Core rather than a separate initiative.</p>
<p>As the 2016 presidential campaign heats up, support for the Common Core has become a political liability, possibly killing it before it really has a chance. That would be a shame. The standards themselves are fine, and before we throw the baby out with the bathwater, perhaps we should consider efforts to implement them properly. To give the Common Core a fair shot, we need appropriate professional development for teachers and a more phased introduction of new standardized testing attached to the standards.</p>
<p>But, if we do ultimately give in to panic and misinformation, let’s hope any replacement provides proper coherence and rigor. Above all, our children should develop solid mathematical skills that will help them see the beauty and utility of this wonderful subject.</p><img src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/46585/count.gif" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" />
Both have been much maligned by parents who felt like they couldn’t help their kids with basic math homework. But the Common Core could help with conceptual understanding and math intuition.Kevin Knudson, Professor of Mathematics, University of FloridaLicensed as Creative Commons – attribution, no derivatives.tag:theconversation.com,2011:article/468412015-09-08T10:11:57Z2015-09-08T10:11:57ZWhen parents with high math anxiety help with homework, children learn less<figure><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/93917/original/image-20150904-14653-u21c7.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=496&fit=clip" /><figcaption><span class="caption">What's the reason for your child's math anxiety?</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="source" href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/departmentofed/9609740358/in/photolist-fDbr1A-4svcsi-ofxVFQ-6zBt6C-8qnJKb-8Rdemt-nVMRjQ-541ftW-7xRMxr-eaydZ-jiFzcH-ndaQD3-FCdMm-863FYD-541add-gN8Piw-8JmhMv-nDpyEF-aM8heK-8u2g7R-5gpMvq-63MVhA-5eqToC-e1ovpF-fJWKuB-drdN2F-HBk1J-fWC37b-ddvdUh-fziBFz-2gVLr-nVLhew-53KZM5-c8Dqks-5XcC4j-53KBK9-nDoZsS-iA7JS-nDoGbX-6QGtFT-fCYLFT-fDgeH7-c8jodE-a8EVhJ-dcPdBa-7NvUMc-3K51R2-oPqZdh-pTPNYs-pnUqgS">US Department of Education</a>, <a class="license" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/">CC BY</a></span></figcaption></figure><p>If the thought of calculating a tip at a restaurant makes you nervous, then you are not alone. Math anxiety is <a href="http://www.mccc.edu/%7Ejenningh/Courses/documents/math_anxiety.pdf">common worldwide</a>.</p>
<p>Math anxiety can lead to poor performance and also <a href="http://www.jstor.org/stable/749455?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents">deter people</a> from taking math courses. This is because feelings of anxiety can tie up important cognitive resources (known as working memory), which are <a href="http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/xge/130/2/224/">needed for solving math problems</a>. </p>
<p>But why are some people more math anxious than others? And is there a link between parents’ math anxiety and their children’s math anxiety?</p>
<p>As researchers who study the role of cognitive and emotional factors in achievement, these are some of the questions that my colleagues and I have been examining. We find that when parents with math anxiety help with homework, it could have a negative impact on their kids. </p>
<h2>Social factors contribute to math anxiety</h2>
<p><a href="http://www.mccc.edu/%7Ejenningh/Courses/documents/math_anxiety.pdf">Math anxiety</a> can start early. Children as young as six can experience varying degrees of math anxiety which is linked to poor math achievement. </p>
<p>While <a href="http://erin-maloney.com/files/136315702693-297.pdf">recent research</a> suggests that some people are predisposed to develop math anxiety, and that there may be a <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24611799">genetic component</a> to this predisposition, the social factors that can lead someone to develop math anxiety are also important to understand.</p>
<p>Recently, we <a href="https://hpl.uchicago.edu/sites/hpl.uchicago.edu/files/uploads/Maloney%20et%20al%20%282015%29%20Intergenerational%20effects.pdf">examined</a> the link between parents’ math anxiety and their children’s math anxiety and math achievement. </p>
<figure class="align-left ">
<img alt="" src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/93918/original/image-20150904-14650-15mavm0.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=237&fit=clip" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/93918/original/image-20150904-14650-15mavm0.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=600&h=696&fit=crop&dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/93918/original/image-20150904-14650-15mavm0.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=600&h=696&fit=crop&dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/93918/original/image-20150904-14650-15mavm0.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=600&h=696&fit=crop&dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/93918/original/image-20150904-14650-15mavm0.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&h=875&fit=crop&dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/93918/original/image-20150904-14650-15mavm0.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=754&h=875&fit=crop&dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/93918/original/image-20150904-14650-15mavm0.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=754&h=875&fit=crop&dpr=3 2262w" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px">
<figcaption>
<span class="caption">Homework help from anxious parents can backfire.</span>
<span class="attribution"><a class="source" href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/inkyhack/7097473881/in/photolist-bPbpHk-5UdkcA-5wMcFN-7zc17f-h2AAJk-48phrW-9XVPm8-bnAhxV-eiTZvN-62koQD-6xnjNG-7aw8gc-7ADLcR-5SbQWC-4wHhXj-4pEtp8-a3xJ3t-aLiSED-9pFh57-53Vymg-5Zag6J-bkaSvN-6sAwEF-aeRrQq-gnpZxX-5Z5WcD-7DyjL5-yU1uX-7LQ5bP-ndFN4Q-fJFYFD-nfpZVZ-8y2F6f-2zJjbh-4bEYEE-53ZZsb-7rfZZy-gnsugL-9xPKwX-2QNadS-gntbjR-w3NB8-5gbd9a-48phJY-48kfWr-48phfW-eFnc3H-4ySAJa-a1dRNy-oRswTL">Patrick Giblin</a>, <a class="license" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/">CC BY-NC</a></span>
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<p>We assessed the math anxiety and math achievement levels of 438 first- and second-grade children at both the beginning and the end of the school year. We assessed their parents’ math anxiety level. We also assessed how often they helped their children with their math homework.</p>
<p>Our research demonstrated that when parents are highly-math-anxious, their children learn significantly less math (over one-third of a grade level less than their peers in math achievement across the school year) and have more math anxiety by school-year’s end. But this is only if parents provide frequent math homework help.</p>
<p>When highly-math-anxious parents don’t help their children very often with their math homework, their children are unaffected by their parents’ anxiety.</p>
<h2>How parents transfer anxiety</h2>
<p>Why does the homework help of highly math-anxious parents backfire?</p>
<p>We can’t say for certain why the homework help of highly-math-anxious parents backfires, leading their children to learn less math and be more math anxious than their peers, but we believe that there are a number of possible reasons. </p>
<p>First, when helping with their children’s math homework, highly-math-anxious parents may be expressing their own dislike of math, perhaps saying things like “math is hard” or “some people are simply not math people.”</p>
<figure class="align-center ">
<img alt="" src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/93919/original/image-20150904-14653-z5o4h3.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&fit=clip" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/93919/original/image-20150904-14653-z5o4h3.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=600&h=400&fit=crop&dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/93919/original/image-20150904-14653-z5o4h3.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=600&h=400&fit=crop&dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/93919/original/image-20150904-14653-z5o4h3.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=600&h=400&fit=crop&dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/93919/original/image-20150904-14653-z5o4h3.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&h=502&fit=crop&dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/93919/original/image-20150904-14653-z5o4h3.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=754&h=502&fit=crop&dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/93919/original/image-20150904-14653-z5o4h3.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=754&h=502&fit=crop&dpr=3 2262w" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px">
<figcaption>
<span class="caption">Anxious parents could end up conveying their own dislike of math.</span>
<span class="attribution"><a class="source" href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/ufv/14093535215/in/photolist-ntp41t-nbUAbF-ntp3VD-nt87u1-ntroWq-nt87mf-nt7yu8-ntoZxB-4rCqzc-dWLxBW-dWGEbp-4DcKFa-6ametY-82PPG-5gDdsb-am9EWh-dei6th-dWNin3-jGDcXp-hHfGnC-bzRtjp-4ofvni-rmbV5J-dWGDp4-758GJk-6wsTf4-77Kma4-5W7gmu-NqNv9-ntroQy-nrmEvq-nt87ch-nrmErs-nrmEob-nvaZia-ntrowh-ntp3nK-nbUzwV-nbUzua-nbUL59-nbUzoP-ntroeU-nt7zG8-ntp34i-nt86zf-ntro2Q-nbUuW4-nbUuUv-nvaYBv-ntrnU5">University of the Fraser Valley</a>, <a class="license" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/">CC BY</a></span>
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<p>Finally, highly-math-anxious parents may become flustered when their children’s teachers use novel strategies that parents themselves never learned. </p>
<p>We believe that being exposed to negative attitudes about math and confusing instruction from parents might cause children to lose confidence in their math abilities and to invest less effort into learning math, resulting in lower math achievement by the end of the year. </p>
<h2>Couldn’t this just be genetics?</h2>
<p>While I mentioned earlier that there is a genetic link between math anxiety of parents and their children, our research indicates that parents have more than just a genetic influence on their children’s math outcomes. </p>
<p>If genetics were the only factor at play, then we would have seen that parents with higher math anxiety would also have children displaying similar anxiety. They would also have lower math achievement as compared to their peers. </p>
<p>But that was not what we found. </p>
<p>Rather, it was specifically in the case of children whose highly-math-anxious parents helped them often with math homework that we saw this trickling down of parents’ math anxiety. </p>
<p>Thus, while genetics may be part of the equation, it is certainly not the entire story.</p>
<h2>How can children be supported</h2>
<p>This research highlights the need for researchers and educators to work together to develop more effective tools to help parents – especially those who are anxious – support their children’s math success. </p>
<p>These tools may come in the form of worksheets, apps, and games, or parent-teacher workshops aimed at teaching parents the new strategies that are being used in the classroom to teach math today.</p>
<p>Fortunately, there are a number of <a href="http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2001-18060-012">research-based strategies</a> that can be very useful in helping children and parents deal with their math anxiety. My favorite strategy is a simple, inexpensive, and very effective tool called expressive writing. </p>
<p>To use this strategy, students simply have to write about their worries regarding an upcoming math test (for example by answering the question “Explain in detail how this upcoming math test makes you feel”) for about seven minutes before they take the test. </p>
<p>This straightforward act of writing actually causes students to <a href="https://hpl.uchicago.edu/sites/hpl.uchicago.edu/files/uploads/Park%2C%20Ramirez%20%26%20Beilock%20%282014%29%20The%20role%20of%20expressive%20writing%20in%20math%20anxiety.pdf">perform better</a> on the math test than what they would have performed had they not written at all. </p>
<p>While it is true that even the best-intentioned parents may contribute to their child’s anxiety and lower achievement, the good news is that simple strategies, like expressive writing, can go a long way in helping children combat the negative effects of math anxiety.</p>
<p>Success in math requires more than just ability. It is also about developing the right attitude.</p><img src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/46841/count.gif" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" />
<p class="fine-print"><em><span>Funding for this work wsa received from the US Department of Education, IES Grant R305A110682, and NSF CAREER Award DRL-0746970 to Sian L. Beilock, and the NSF Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center (SBE-0541957; SBE-1041707) to Susan C. Levine. </span></em></p>Children as young as six can show math anxiety. What’s the link between parents’ math anxiety and their children’s math anxiety?Erin A Maloney, Postdoctoral Research Scholar, University of ChicagoLicensed as Creative Commons – attribution, no derivatives.