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Blame math-anxious parents for poor results


New York: If the very thought of a maths test makes you break out in a cold sweat, the attitude of your parents may be partly to blame as a new study has found that parent’s math-anxiety negatively affects kids.

When math-anxious parents provide frequent help on the child’s math homework, the kids learn less math over the school year and are more likely to be math-anxious themselves, the findings showed.

“We often do not think about how important parents’ own attitudes are in determining their children’s academic achievement,” said one of the lead researchers Sian Beilock from the University of Chicago in the US.

“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,” Beilock pointed out.

These findings suggest that adults’ attitudes toward math can play an important role in children’s math achievement.

“Math-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,” said Susan Levine, professor at the University of Chicago.

The researchers earlier found that when teachers are anxious about math, their students learn less math during the school year.

The current study is the first to establish a link between parents’ and children’s math anxiety.

Four hundred and thirty eight first and second-grade students and their primary caregivers participated in the study.

Children were assessed in math achievement and math anxiety at both the beginning and end of the school year.

As a control, the team also assessed reading achievement, which they found was not related to parents’ math anxiety.

The researchers believe the link between parents’ math anxiety and children’s math performance stems more from math attitudes than genetics.

The findings appeared in the journal Psychological Science.

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