Is Your Math Anxiety Hampering Your Child?

Your child comes home with Math Homework, that awful Common Core Math Homework no less. He/she needs help. The method being demonstrated is different than you were taught.

How do you react?

  • Go on a rant about Common Core and how it is ruining our children?
  • Throw your hands up and say you were horrible at math and tell them to figure it out themselves or ask their teacher?
  • Just give the child the answer because you are too tired to figure out how to help them and, let’s face it, no one really needs Math in real life now that we have calculators and computers?

Here’s what your child hears when he/she hears you say the above.
  • Your teacher is wrong. The way she/he is teaches is wrong.
  • Math must be hard if Mom and Dad can’t even do it.
  • Math isn’t important. I don’t need to learn it.

Disclosure: Math isn’t a problem in our house
I admit it, I did fairly well at Math throughout school, with the exception of Calculus. I struggled with that one. I will also admit I am married to a College Math Instructor. So, there is a great deal of understanding and respect for Mathematics in the house that Math is paying for.
We aren’t geeks that sit around and do Math problems for fun, Though there was that one time at the zoo when he saw the weight and height of a California Condor and offered to give me the formula used to calculate wing span. He was joking! (But, he does know the formula.)
Nope, not much Math Anxiety here. But, both of us do understand struggling to understand some concepts. Mine was Calculus A and his was Differential Calculus, or some such nonsense that he needed for his Master’s Degree.
We both understand that many (most) people do have Math Anxiety. Math is not one of those neutral subjects. Most people love it or hate. I can count on one hand the number of people that have said “I loved Math in school” when they found out his profession. The majority respond with “I hate Math” or “I was terrible at Math.”

Our son started school the first year Common Core was instituted in the district curriculum. He will not have to relearn different methods as a fourth grader that weren’t taught when he was a third grader but are now.

Common Core is not EVIL
My entire life I have heard adults remark that the way American schools teach Math is wrong. Rote memorization was wrong, New Math was wrong. And now here we are again with Common Core being wrong.

I am not going to get sidetracked with discussions about standardized testing and the use of test scores to evaluate teachers or who developed the standards. Nor am I discussing the failure of many school districts to properly transition the students to the new standards.I am strictly focusing on the standards themselves. The information most American schools now require our children to learn at each grade level.If you are a Common Core Hater I am only going to ask if you have looked at the actual standards before you came to that conclusion, or did you just watch one of those “Common Core Math DESTROYED in 30 seconds” videos?
Truthfully, the answer doesn’t matter when your child is coming to you frustrated because they don’t understand their assignment. BUT, telling your child you “hate Common Core” is the equivalent of telling him the school is wrong and she doesn’t have to learn it because Common Core is bad. Is that going to help your child?
Why do we need to learn Math anyway?
You hate Math. You aren’t good at it. You aren’t going to college or into a career that needs Math. So why do you need to learn it? I think this quote from Purple Math sums it up beautifully:

You didn’t learn your alphabet all those years ago because you knew you’d be reading Moby Dick this semester. In the same way, you don’t take algebra now because you know that you’ll be factoring quadratics in ten years. You should take math and science courses now for much the same reason you learned your letters back then: to lay the foundation for bigger and better things to come, and to open up new opportunities for future pleasures and successes.

Math, particularly Algebra teaches you to think logically and methodically. Memorizing the formulae is not the truly important part, learning how to analyze and problem solve is. It is a means to an end.Is it hard at first? Uh, yeah. So is riding a bike, learning how to read and knitting. Anything new is a challenge at first.
As a fellow parent I get it that you may be tempted to dismiss Math as unimportant because your child is upset. But doing so isn’t going to help them understand it any better, is it?So, what’s a parent to do?
Take a deep breath.No really, I mean it. Before you throw up your hands in frustration take a deep breath and think before you say something inadvertently that could turn your child off of Math.Admit that the method is new to you or you forget how to do it. Make a joke about your “old age”.

Do YOUR homework: We are still in the workbook stage instead of a text book. My son’s teacher sends home his classwork a few days before they get the homework on the topic so parents can review it. I needed those worksheets done in class for the “doubles plus or minus one” method of addition.

If your child has a textbook, read it, look through the examples, maybe go back a chapter or two if needed.

And we now have the assistance of the Internet. My husband recommends Purple Math to all of his Algebra students. They cover everything from 5th grade math to Algebra 2. And there are countless more free sites you can find with a quick search.

Ask for help. Call or e-mail the teacher if it is one concept or problem you are unsure of. If you are really lost, ask to schedule a meeting so you can understand it better.

Or, if the teacher isn’t available or you don’t feel comfortable with asking him/her, ask one of the other parents. Two days after I had to figure out the “doubles plus or minus one” method, I got a text from a friend with students in the same grade but another class clarifying what they were asking the kids to do on that assignment.

Find a tutor:  In an episode of Seventh Heaven, the parents struggle to help their oldest daughter with Algebra. The mother was in tears, the daughter was in tears. A parishioner desperate to help the family in any way, shows up on the doorstep in the midst of the crisis and Mom asks her if she knows Algebra. In the next scene the daughter is staring wide eyed at the parishioner laughing and says something like “That’s all it is? Why didn’t Mom and Dad just say so?” Sometimes we are not the best help for our child.

There are plenty of resources and they don’t all have to cost a lot of money. Your child’s teacher should be able to offer suggestions.

One Stay at Home Mom friend of mine sent her daughter to the Boys and Girls Club after school a few days a week so she could get homework help because she wasn’t listening to Mom. I can see J and I reaching that point down the road.

In high school I was a tutor for my friend’s little sister in French. Her parents didn’t know the language and her big sister, who was in my French 3 class wasn’t able to get through to her. But I could. Their mom paid me a few bucks an hour and little sister passed the class.

Nowadays many high schools have Math Labs where students can get help at no cost. Some students can earn extra credit or volunteer hours for tutoring. Or barter with another parent. You can volunteer to baby sit younger siblings in exchange for that parent tutoring your child.

Even if you do need to spend money for a more expensive tutor, consider the cost benefit analysis. If your child learns the basics early, and doesn’t “fear” Math, how will that benefit them in the future? If they develop Math Anxiety will their choices be limited in college or future careers?

Lets help our children be better than we are.
I am assuming that since you are reading this, you want what is best for your child. You want your child to be more successful, happier, etc. than you are. I certainly do.

Math may be hard, it may not be fun or exciting. But it is critical! So, please before you steer your child down a path of Math Hatred, try some of my suggestions.

And for those parents that have already been through this, or Math Professionals, I’d love it if you would add your suggestions in the comments.

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