Math anxiety, that is feelings of stress, fear and apprehension when it comes to doing math, is certainly real. In fact scientists have developed different ways to measure mathematical related anxiety including the MARS (Mathematics Anxiety Rating Scale) and the Fennema-Sherman Mathematics Attitudes Scales (FSMAS).
A child suffering from math anxiety is not necessarily “bad at math”, but the stress they feel in math class and the avoidance tactics they use to minimize the amount of math they need to do, mean that they often don’t get the much needed practise that leads to math fluency.
A research based approach to math anxiety
Fortunately, research has found that, when it comes to math anxiety, parents can offer a great deal of help and support to their children. The infographic below gives 8 science-backed, practical ways to help parents conquer their child’s math anxiety.
8 Practical Ways to Conquer Your Child’s Math Anxiety
1. Be involved
Student success in school has been shown to increase if their parents are positively involved in their education.
2. Encourage a growth mindset
Studies have shown that effort trumps ability when it comes to learning math, so set high expectations when encouraging your child.
3. Be positive about math
A parent’s perception of mathematics influences not only their child’s perception, but also their achievement in mathematics.
4. Overcome gender stereotypes
Foster math confidence regardless of the gender of your child by highlighting achievements made by both male and female scientists.
5. Learn the basics
Rote learning is essential to mathematics performance as a many higher level concepts build the memorization and repetition of the basic math facts.
6. Allow mistakes
Focus on the concepts rather than the right answer since making (and correcting) mistakes is an essential part of math learning.
7. Take baby steps
Support new topics by slowly building from the topics your child already understands. Use gradual, repeated success to build math confidence in your child.
8. Make math relevant to real life
Highlight ways in which you and your family use math in everyday life and discuss how good math skills will open the doors to a larger choice of career options.
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One of the coolest things about my little ones’ school is that parents and kids can borrow math board games from the school library to take home or play there and then before school starts. I’ve seen 3 year olds learning the basics of fractions and 7 year olds building confidence in their arithmetic facts, all with great big smiles on their faces! Board games are a great way to make math practice painless. For those of you fellow board games fans, here are 10 recommended math board games, along with what parents have to say about them. Enjoy!
This game board is a clever take on the classic board game Monopoly, but with math in every action. Roll the dice and move to a square to answer or figure out one of the curriculum standards-based questions to “own” the property.
What parents say “Math may not be your children’s favorite subject, but it might be if they play Mathopoly”
Add and subtract your way through the swamp. Young children get to practise their essential arithmetic facts while having fun. This game received an Oppenheim Best Toy Award.
What parents say “I bought this for my 4 year old son as he HATED math with worksheets and flashcards. He wanted to play this game 10 times a day. He LOVES it! Before we bought this game, he was SLOWLY and reluctantly finger-counting addition. He can now add and subtract 2 numbers (1-6) by memory.”—customer from Texas
If your eight year old likes crosswords, this game will be a hit. Making equations can be a challenge. Eight year olds can begin making equations using addition and subtraction but older children can get more points using division or fraction tiles.
What parents say “It’s given my daughter great self-confidence in Math. Only complaint:The tiles are cardboard and thin. Easy to lose, but they come in a ziploc type bag.”—Elizabeth M.
Shake the “head” cup to roll the dice. Set the sand timer. Write as many equations from the numbers and symbols on the dice before sand runs out. Good for any number of players and level. This is an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award Winner.
What parents say “My oldest plays the traditional way, in making math problems. My preschooler tries to find matching numbers and sequences, and my other preschooler tries to identify the numbers. It is such a simple game that you can make up your own way to use it and play it.”—J. Gardiner
The brightly colored cards have questions and the answers are printed on the game board. Place a tile on the answer. With five in a row, you have a Sequence! This bingo-like game is great for ages seven and older.
What parents say “Thus, whether you use the game cards or make up your own more challenging cards, this game will be fun as well as educational for your smart pre-schooler, your struggling grade-schooler, or even your genius middle- or high-schooler.” –Joan A.
This game makes making change so much fun! Earn money while completing chores, like setting the table or for selling lemonade. The spinner makes exceptions such as, no nickels to make sure kids make use of the higher value coins. Monet bags is great for developing critical thinking and counting/coin sense.
What parents say “It’s a game that is easy to learn and fun for the whole family! ”—a mom
Better be hungry for pizza as you play seven games in one! Identifying, adding and subtracting and matching equivalents help make making pizzas and working with fractions fun. The double sided spinners allow the difficulty level to be easily adjusted.
What parents say “I think this is an excellent game for teaching the different skills to do with learning fractions and can be easily improvised for each child’s learning/grade level. The games can be also be complemented with real pizza:)Recommended!”—J. Hayes
Play five different versions, including a solo one, of this addition/multiplication game. Set tiles up crossword style to add up to multiples of the number on a die. Connect all the numbers for a complete Sumoku!
What parents say “I highly recommend Sumoku to anyone looking for a fun, challenging game.”—P. Yocem
Family finance is fun in Pay Day. Get paid and decide how to spend your money. Whoever has the most money at the end of the game wins. This classic game is for suitable for ages eight and up.
What parents say “This game is very fun. it can be as long or as short (time wise) as you want it. You learn about money and bills and such, but don’t really see it as a learning game because its fun….”—a kid’s review
Have you played any math board games recently? Which are your favorite ones?
April is Math Awareness Month, the goal of which is to increase public understanding of, and appreciation for mathematics. The theme for this year’s month of math awareness is Mathematics, Statistics and the Data Deluge.
According to Math Awareness Month:
“Massive amounts of data are collected every day, often from services we use regularly, but never think about. Scientific data comes in massive amounts from sensor networks, astronomical instruments, biometric devices, etc., and needs to be sorted out and understood. Personal data from our Google searches, our Facebook or Twitter activities, our credit card purchases, our travel habits, and so on, are being mined to provide information and insight. These data sets provide great opportunities, and pose dangers as well.”
As a fan of data and of infographics in particular, I’ve collected 10 conversation-starting infographics which offer interesting insights into math, education and math education. Which one will you talk about this week?
Whether you’re searching for a unique gift for the holiday season, or just looking for a quirky present to give to the maths fan in your life, check out this essential list of cool maths related gifts. (The links in this guide take you to Amazon.com. If you do purchase from them, I get a very small commission which helps me continue to offer to you all the free content at Maths Insider!)
Great for fun for kids aged 7+, the Mummy Math book takes kids on a maths adventure, where they use their geometry skills to solve clues leading to the secret burial chamber; “Matt, Bibi, and their dog Riley crawled through the tiny opening first. FWUMP! A secret door suddenly closed behind them . . .” Mummy Math is great value at just $7.
The hottest educational toy of this holiday season, this cool kids tablet has been dubbed “an iPad for kids.” Apps can be downloaded from the Leapfrog App Center, including maths games which adapt to your child’s ability. Parents can also track their child’s progress using the online parent’s dashboard. For more details and features, read this full LeapPad Explorer review. You can pick up the LeapPad Explorer Tablet for $99.
If the child in your life already has or is about to be given a Nintendo DS, grab this Brain Quest game, which covers English, geography, (US) history, science and of course maths! Your child will love the brain-twisting Hot Swap Multiplayer quiz games featuring both versus and cooperative games. The Brain Quest game costs around $37
This beautifully crafted Montessori maths kit contains instructions and worksheets on CD as well as these classic Montessori materials. Great for hands on maths learning! Get inspired by checking out the photos on Amazon of kids actually using the equipment. This luxury Montessori Math Kit is $150.
An algebraic version of Scrabble. A nice way to introduce older children to the concept of equations and algebra. “Learn simple stuff (like what division is) and more sophisticated ideas (like the order of precedence among arithmetic operations).” We’ve got this in our house, and I can testify that this is much more fun than a workbook full of questions! You can share Equate for $20.
Another pick directly from the Maths Insider toy cupboard. I had to grab these double sided addition placemats when I saw them at the toy store on a recent trip! Let your kids absorb their maths facts as they play or eat on the mat, or grab a dry wipe to do some drills on the reverse. Math fun on a budget for only $4.50
Oh my! This is too cute! I’ve seen some clever mathsy body suits with lots of equations on them, but this simple statement trumps them all! Brainwash the babies in your network into some early maths loving! Available for $16.50.
These math diapers are another cute math gift for the youngest members of your network. The waterproof diapers come with snap front poppers which make the waist adjustable, so one size fits all. Another great value maths gift at $12.
This pi women’s cut T-shirt would make a cool gift for a maths teacher, and it’s made of pre shrunk cotton too! The pi symbol is made up of the actual digits of pi (no- not all of them!). This math cool T-shirt is $20.
If you look closely, you’ll see that under the casing, this unisex watch actually contains a hand crafted miniature calculator, protractor, pair of compasses, notebook, eraser and star. It also comes as a men’s or ladies version. A fab time-telling gift for fab maths teachers, this watch is retailing at $45
My fantastic departmental head at the first school I taught at, had the most amazing collection of quirky earrings! I’m not sure if there’s an earring version of this pewter Fibonacci Pendant Necklace but this still makes a nice gift for us lady mathematicians. This Hypo-allergenic Fibonacci pendant is on sale for around $13.
With an 11.5″ diameter, this medium sized math clock contains enough high school math to get keep all but the most math phobic happy. The answers to the sums determine the hour. Made from lightweight black matte metal, this Math Clock is a great buy at $23.
You can’t go far wrong by combining math and chocolate in my eyes! Enclosed in the super shiny wrapper, you get ¼ pound of smooth gourmet milk chocolate in the shape of the cool mathematical symbol, pi. This yummy bar of Gourmet Math Chocolate is now half price at $9.99.
So what can I do if you think your child is gifted at maths?
Generally, as a parent, make sure that you chat to your child’s teacher as soon as you think they may be finding their school maths too easy. Not all schools have a gifted program, but your child’s teacher may be willing to give your child different (not more) work within the class.
Also be aware that although your child may shine at mental maths or algebra, they may have weaknesses in their problem solving skills, or with maths that requires spatial skills such as geometry. With any work you do at home with your child, try to give plenty of opportunity for your child to explore such problem areas.
It’s also important to encourage your child to experience the non academic side of maths. Explore how maths links to other subjects such as art, science, history and engineering design.
What resources can I use to support my gifted child?
With recreational maths in mind, here are 5 great resources to help you support your maths mad child:
NRICH is a joint project between the Faculties of Mathematics and Education at The University of Cambridge (where I did my teacher training!). It provides interactive maths challenges, weekly maths puzzles, maths games and a forum, all focused on offering “enrichment” activities to students.
The Art of Problem Solving website also has a forum where students, parents and teachers can share ideas about maths competitions and curriculla. They also have online classes for students aged 11-18 which “bring together top students to work with outstanding teachers”
Project Euler is a series of challenging mathematical/computer programming problems that require more than just mathematical insights to solve and are aimed at among others “students for whom the basic curriculum is not feeding their hunger to learn, “. James Somers has an great article on how it helped him finally learn computer programming.
There’s been a big debate amongst maths teachers and educators as to the merits of Salman Khan’s vast quantity of free online “chalk and talk” maths videos, but many parents have successfully used this controversial resource to support their children’s maths learning, whether their child was gifted or not. My feeling is that anything that encourages students to strengthen their maths skills independently from school, can’t be all bad.
Both Maths-Whizz and Ten Marks offer online ability tracked maths programs. After initial testing your child is given work that suits their ability rather than their age and focuses on their weaknesses. Click here to see my video review of Maths-Whizz. Both programs offer free trials.
If you’re worried that your child may be too good at maths, make sure to communicate with your child’s teacher, focus on working on any problem areas and encourage recreational maths.
Have you tried any of the resources? What did you think of them? What other resources does your maths mad child like?
“need to rote memorize initially and then lots of practice worksheets – no easy way out there…”
“It is really important. If they crack these early it will give them confidence with division and enable them to see patterns in larger numbers.”
The results weren’t a surprise since I’ve spoken many concerned parents over the years as a maths teacher, a Kumon instructor and now as a maths blogger. Many of you have children who have passed the milestone of learning their times tables, but there are others of you who are worried that the whole memorization process is taking too long, is time consuming and is stressful.
Do you want your child to achieve faster, more confident times tables?
After listening to concerned parents and seeing what was already available on the market, I’ve developed a product that will help you guide your child to faster, more confident times tables in just 31 days.
The 31 Days to Faster Times Tables program is a mixture of worksheets, audio and practical activities, so if your child needs to spend time designing their online avatar before they’ll even consider doing any maths, then this product may not be for you.
However, if :
your child has 10-15 mins each day to spare
you want to be involved in their times tables learning
you want a flexible program where your child isn’t tied to one learning style
Of course, if you’ve read my About page, you’ll know that I used to be a Kumon instructor. I ran a Kumon tutorial centre in the UK for 3 years.
But some Maths Insider readers have asked me,
“What is Kumon?”
You see, not everyone has heard of Kumon, even though, according to their official website, they have had 16 million students in 46 countries around the world.
So let me tell you about Kumon – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly!
Kumon is an educational franchise, originally founded by Toru Kumon in 1956
Like McDonalds, the franchising effect means that there are thousands of Kumon centres around the world, from Germany to South Africa and from The Phillipines to the US, all helping children with maths.
Each instructor, although trained by Kumon will bring their own personality to the program, some are rigid and some are flexible. The majority have never been teachers.
Like McDonalds, profit is the big motive. Kumon is worth over $650 million, made from charging $100 a month, taking 40% from franchisees, and employing young and poorly paid support staff.
Kumon students typically visit the study centre once or twice a week and are given homework to do for the other 6 days
At the study centre your child gets support from the Kumon staff and sees other children, all studying towards a common goal.
As a parent, you have to take your child to the centre, or arrange for the work to be sent to you each week.
You the parent have to “police” your child’s Kumon homework 5 or 6 days a week, and field the complaints of, “It’s BORING!”
Kumon is an “individualised” learning program – students only move up to the next level when they have mastered the work. Mastery is defined as speed and accuracy
Each student works through the program at just the right pace for themselves, and children will develop motor and concentration skills as they repeat the worksheets.
The repetition and the speed criteria in particular can be tough for children to meet.
Students can literally get stuck at certain difficult stages in the Kumon program for weeks due to the strict enforcement of target times.
All Kumon students start with easy work relative to their ability
Student’s will find the work easy and will initially enjoy doing the worksheets.
The easy Kumon work eventually becomes not so easy, and then really rather difficult.
Doing 10 pages of questions like these, quickly and accurately is extremely difficult. Even Kumon themselves call this the Level D mountain.
Kumon Level D Worksheets
The Kumon program encourages independent learning
The Kumon worksheets explain and guide students whenever a new topic is introduced, therefore they can work independently.
Students can’t always figure out the work themselves, especially at the higher levels. At larger centres, it can be impossible for instructors and assistants to have the time to explain the work.
There are tales on message boards of students being driven to tears because instructors refused to explain work to them.
Do you ever have the problem of, having found great maths activities for your little one, not being able to remember any of them when that magic moment happens,when they are happy, calm and ready for an activity?
I was inspired by this great calendar of maths activities from Anne’s Teaching Two blog, to create a list of short and sweet preschool maths activities. Put them in a calendar like Anne has or just print off the list and put on your fridge!
24 Preschool Maths Activities
1. Muffin tin maths – Nurture Store has a tasty maths activity, counting out chocolate chips into a muffin tin labelled with numbers.
2. I-spy Shapes – Play this traditional game but look for”…something shaped like a ….circle”
3. Shoe cupboard tidying – Tidying and sorting shoes is the perfect maths activity for a clutter free entrance hall.
4. Table laying – Arranging cutlery on the table is another useful maths activity for developing sorting skills
5.Watch a Sesame Street counting video online – The Sesame Street website has lots of short maths videos, many including my favourite, The Count!
6. Sandwich Making – When making a sandwich for your preschooler, ask them to help you cut it into halves or quarters (or even eighths!)
7. Bring me 5 – Choose a number, such as 5, then ask your little one to bring you 5 cars, 5 books, 5 blocks or 5 of anything they can easily carry!
8. Time announcing – Start by announcing the time when you see it’s at the hour, “It’s 3 o’clock!”
9. Hopscotch – Even preschoolers will enjoy helping to draw a hopscotch grid and then hop from number to number, forwards then backwards.
10. Number Hunting – Draw a number 4 on a piece of A4 paper, then hide the number behind a cushion (but not completely hidden). Help your toddler hunt for Number 4.
11. Play a colours and shapes online gameOscar’s Trash Collection – This time use the Sesame Street website to play online maths games.
12. Draw around bowls – Grab a blank piece of paper and help your little one draw around upturned bowls to create a circle picture.
13. Play dough numbers – Roll out play dough snakes with your toddler, then form into numbers.
We all want our kids to be happy, confident, well rounded individuals who excel at every subject at school and who will contribute fully to society, but all those dreams fall apart after asking them,
” Sara, what’s 15 + 17?”
As patient and loving parents we can deal with the long pause, but, if after that the answer is still wrong, then we wonder what have they been learning at school for the past 2, 5, or even 10 years! Have they never studied mental maths?
All is not lost
In this series I will show you what you (yes you, not the tutor, not their teacher, not the local Kumon centre) can do to rescue the situation.
If you can set aside 2 minutes a day for at least 4 months, your child’s mental maths problems will slowly but surely melt away.
Before we get started, make sure you’ve read my post about the importance of daily practice.
Don’t worry, I’ll be there to hold your hand (and I’m hoping others will share their mental maths strategies as well).
Want to know what’s coming up in the rest of the series?