There is a prevailing public sentiment that math is something to be feared. Many adults readily admit their aversion to the subject, proclaiming a proclivity for literature or the arts instead. This math anxiety begins in childhood, as early as first grade and is compounded through a child's personal history of math fatigue and negative experience in math classes. No adult in their sane mind would keep doing something they are so harmed by day after day after day, for 10-12 years in a row! And yet this is often what we ask of our children.
If your child is one of these little sufferers, you are probably thinking to yourself: "Why do it at all?! This is clearly not her thing!" But math is not something that we can risk opting our child out of. It is the best tool human possess to develop the mind, and a good math background is becoming increasingly necessary to secure a good future in a variety of professions.
Is there any way to break the vicious circle and eliminate anxiety, avoid fatigue, and infuse joy into your child's relationship with math?
These are some simple, as well as not-so-simple, things you can do:
- Change your own attitude towards math: probably the hardest of all, learn to like all these shapes, patterns, fractions, and probabilities. Find ways to get excited by a new equation or an unexpected graph or a new way to solve a problem.
- Learn to enjoy doing math with your child: laugh at mistakes, admire a correct solution, have fun looking for a different solution.
- Always welcome your child's questions and try to avoid answering them directly. Instead, ask more questions that would eventually lead to understanding. If you don't know the answer, look for it together.
- Allow time for thinking and elaborating on "long" questions and problems: do not expect your child to know everything but help them to think it through.
- Learn to see and do math anywhere and everywhere you go together: compare roof triangles, admire straight light rays coming through the clouds, praise close-to-perfect carrot cubes on the kitchen chopping board, etc.
The younger your child is, the quicker you will see the changes that your own attitude towards math will have on him or her. Math fatigue and math anxiety will become irrelevant concepts for your family.