Study: Kids With Math-Anxious Parents May Have Poorer Math Grades

Aug 17, 2015 05:55 AM EDT /By Hanna Sanchez

Study: Kids With Math-Anxious Parents May Have Poorer Math Grades

Parents with math anxiety may pass on the nervousness to their kids, based on a new study. The researchers suggested that parents who feel anxious about mathematics should consider hiring a tutor as their children might absorb their anxiety and affect their math performance in school.

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A Single Mother Teaches Her Child

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A new study published in the Psychological Science journal revealed kids taught by math-anxious parents may receive poor math grades.
“Notably, when parents reported helping with math homework less often, children’s math achievement and attitudes were not related to parents’ math anxiety,” Erin Maloney of the University of Chicago and her co-authors wrote in the study.
Maloney and her team examined the math abilities and attitudes of about 400 students in the first and second grade with the help of an information collected from an unrelated study, Grace Smith of Education News wrote. They found that kids felt anxious about math only if their math-anxious parents helped them with their math homework.
Melissa Dahl of New York Magazine said the kids were tested twice on their math skills, with the first one administered at the start of the school year and the second at the end of the year. Participants were also asked how any math-related ideas made them feel. Their parents, meanwhile, were surveyed to determine their math anxiety and how many times they helped their kids with their math homework during the school year.
The researchers suggested that parents who feel anxious about mathematics should consider hiring a tutor as their children might absorb their anxiety and affect their math performance in school.
“We often don’t think about how important parents’ own attitudes are in determining their children’s academic achievement,” Psychology Professor Sian Beilock, who helped in the study, explained. “But our work suggests that if a parent is walking around saying ‘Oh, I don’t like math’ or ‘This stuff makes me nervous,’ kids pick up on this messaging and it affects their success.”
The team also examined the participants’ reading performance, and found no relation to the parents’ anxiety with math. They suggested that the relationship between the children’s math performance and their parents’ math anxiety comes more from math attitudes than genetics. The researchers said one solution may be to provide parents effective tools that would help them teach math to their kids, like math books, mobile apps, board games, and computer games.
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