New research shows that parents who have math anxiety could undermine their child’s ability to learn the subject.
A team of researchers led by University of Chicago physiological scientists Sian Beilock and Susan Levine found that children of math-anxious parents learned less math over the school year and were more likely to be math-anxious themselves.
The catch? The math-anxious parent only negatively affects the child’s math skills when they frequently try to help the child with math homework.
These findings suggest that adults’ attitudes toward math can play an important role in children’s math achievement.
“We often don’t think about how important parents’ own attitudes are in determining their children’s academic achievement. 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,” explained Beilock, professor in psychology.
“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,” added Levine, the Rebecca Anne Boylan Professor of Education and Society in Psychology.