The fear of maths is common. The good news is that fear is a learned behaviour you can easily overcome.
1 Face the Fear
Talk about the fear and why it is frightening. Write it down and say exactly which bits are scary. The ‘difficult’ maths problems can usually be broken down into easier parts:
2 Make Maths an Everyday Fun Part of Life
Whatever the age of your child, and it is best to start early, you can involve them with maths doing everyday things. Cut foods like pizza or sandwiches into fractions, count small foods like sweets or grapes and make up subtraction sums – I have 10, if I give you six, how many will be left for me?
For older children, get them to work out the best mobile phone plan, or some statistics for their favourite sport. YouTube has over 400 results for ‘multiplication rap’ making learning tables fun.
3 Celebrate Success and Learn From Mistakes
It is important that you, as a parent, help your child by staying calm when attempting a maths task. If you get flustered and say ‘I was never very good at maths’ your child will learn to get flustered and panic too. Just treat maths questions like a puzzle, stay persistent and logical whilst remaining confident and having fun.
If your child makes a mistake, it is better to ask ‘how did you get that answer?’ than say ‘that’s wrong’. Mistakes are not bad; they are an opportunity to learn. If you try a question and get it wrong yourself, remain confident and say it’s fun working through the challenge. Most of us love a puzzle and feel elated when we get a solution. Maths is fun.
4 Practice (and patience) Makes Perfect
Maths is just like sport, the more you practise the better you get, and, the more fun you have. There is no need to worry about using a different method than that used in school. There is never just one way to solve a problem – building mathematical resilience is enabling children to tackle problems with confidence and understanding not through learnt techniques.
It doesn’t just have to be the homework, you can show your children positive ways to use mathematics in everyday activities at home such as, sewing, cooking, planning a family trip, budgeting and shopping.
5 We are All Different
Each person is an individual and learns differently. When it comes to maths much of the school maths curriculum is actually language-based. If your child is struggling with maths, take the time to find out if the problem is an ability to express their understanding verbally. Chances are if your child can manage a sheet of problems but freezes when faced with lengthy descriptions of the same concepts, the issue may be their learning style or language ability.
Mathematical ability is not genetic. It is all about attitude and confidence. Making it fun, enjoying the puzzle challenge, practising for confidence will soon have you celebrating success. It’s easy to blame the teacher or the school, however children will learn more from your (positive or negative) attitude than anything they learn in school.
Practise lots, be confident and have fun
Claire Meadows-Smith Head of Maths, St Albans RC High School Ipswich and Founder of The Community Maths School