With the recent trend of parents taking PSLE math workshops to help their children with their math homework and assignments, this comes as a surprise revelation to me.

If your child tends to be very anxious over math and breakout in cold sweat, you, the parent, may be just the reason.

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The Study

Four hundred and thirty-eight 7-8 year-old students were assessed in math achievement and math anxiety at both the beginning and end of the school academic year. The team  the team also assessed reading achievement as a control variable  – which they found was not related to parents’ math anxiety.

Parents completed a questionnaire about their own nervousness and anxiety around math and how often they helped their children with math homework.

The researchers believed that the performances of the children depend on math attitudes of their parents than genetics.

Your Responses my Harm Your Children’s Self-Esteem

The interesting study, led by UChicago psychologists Sian Beilock and Susan Levine,  discovered that when parents provide frequent help on the child’s math homework, their anxiety rubs off onto their children and cause them to be extremely anxious over math as well! This hampers the learning rate of their children and they actually pick up fewer math skills as time goes by.

The study found that when parents offer to help their children, regardless of their knowledge, maths-anxious parents may be less effective in explaining math concepts to children, and may not respond well when children make a mistake or solve a problem in a novel way. They may flare up and yell at their children, especially when they seem to make careless mistakes.

RELATED: The Highly Sensitive Child: When Every Constructive Feedback Feels like a Personal Attack

Children, who intrinsically want to please their parents, tend to feel very stressed up over their parents’ reactions. This cause them to be less confident in their subject and creates anxiety if they perceive they will be making mistakes or do not know the subject matter well.

What does this Mean? 

It means that while parents do have a choice to attend Maths Parent Workshop, the outcomes of their children’s achievements lie with their ability to stay calm and respond calmly when they are helping their children with their homework or assignments. If the parents end up yelling or making black faces during the session, the knowledge of solving questions may come down to naught if the children are too stressed up to absorb the learning.

Rather, it is encouraged that parents might want to include math books, computer and traditional board games, or Internet apps that allow interactions of fun and positivity to generate positive feelings instead.

E. A. Maloney, G. Ramirez, E. A. Gunderson, S. C. Levine, S. L. Beilock. Intergenerational Effects of Parents’ Math Anxiety on Children’s Math Achievement and AnxietyPsychological Science, 2015; DOI: 10.1177/0956797615592630