How To Help Children Cope with Maths Anxiety

Parents, what are your general feelings towards Mathematics? You may either love it, hate it, or even develop a slight fear towards it. Children can face this problem too – and it’s called Maths anxiety.

It’s common to develop Maths anxiety from young, especially over perceived failures in understanding and solving Maths problems. This is partly because Singapore Maths is a different beast entirely.

Singapore Maths focuses on conceptual depth instead of rote memorisation, in order to get students to learn to think mathematically and rely on the depth of knowledge that they gained. Thus, it is not enough to simply memorise the formulas, because resilience and patience are needed to think through a problem too.

Therefore, a positive attitude towards Maths is needed to help our children perform better too. Students also perform at a higher level when others believe in their potential for understanding and success from the start.

For parents who are looking for tips on how they can help their child with Maths at home, we have gathered up some tips here:

1. Check Their Foundations

Learning Maths is like building a house. You’ll need to have solid foundations in place so that you can build new rooms. If one foundational skill or concept isn’t as well understood, the house can get a little shaky and building new rooms is going to get harder. This is also a reason why your child may be losing confidence in their Maths skills and in themselves over time.

The fastest way to check your child’s foundations in Maths is to ask them directly about it. As a fun exercise, you can get them to try and explain a concept or challenging problem that they were unable to solve by themselves that week. Even though you may not understand it entirely, getting your child to talk through the problem can hint to you some of their key hurdles.

2. Learn Through Real-World Applications

Much like sports or music, Maths is a skill that requires frequent practice and exposure to different types of problems. In addition to rote practice, try balancing it with the real-world applications of Maths too.

For younger children, you can carry out physical demonstrations at home using objects lying around the house. For instance, working out money problems with physical coins and notes can help children to visualise it later on. This can also teach them some early abstract concepts such as multiplication and division.

For older children, this can involve activities such as going shopping at the local supermarket. For instance, you can ask them to compare the costs of two different volumes of milk powder at the supermarket. This also encourages them to practise their mental Maths in thinking through complex problems on the spot and to work with larger quantities of items.

Another quick way can be to introduce them to educational magazines that will help them to see how concepts they have learnt in school can be applied to real-life problems. This includes STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) magazines that allow them to picture how the different disciplines can intersect each other, in turn spurring their curiosity to learn more.

3. Praise Effort Over Results

A big part of Maths anxiety lies in the fear of not being able to succeed and arrive at an answer in the end. It can be the most difficult to overcome, due to students being presented with questions that can be challenging them way above the usual difficulty they are used to.

When this happens, sit down with your child to try and problem-solve the challenging question together. Identify the concept being tested, and then go back a few steps to work with your child on the parts that they are confident in. This helps them to build confidence in themselves to tackle the question with a more positive mindset.

If they make a mistake or aren’t able to get an answer, remember to first praise your child for their effort. Tell them to focus on the idea that they aren’t able to get the answer “yet”, so it shifts their mindset towards one that focuses on resilience and patience. Remind them that making mistakes isn’t bad, and it’s a normal part of doing Maths too.

You may need to practise this step a few times to help your child overcome some of this fear. Plus, refrain from trying to advise your child on the “right” way to do something. As much as possible, you want them to work through the problems by themselves, while you encourage them on the side.

Some final thoughts…

A healthy mindset towards learning Maths includes confidence and the resilience to keep learning even when it gets tough. For your child, this can translate into perseverance when facing different challenges in life.

It can be difficult to overcome Maths anxiety easily, especially when our children feel pressured to manage their time across their different subjects. When our children are running their own marathon, it can feel difficult for us as parents to help out.

However, even on the side lines, we can still provide our support and reassurance to our children when they need it. Remember to check-in with your child on any worries they might have, and respect their decision if they aren’t able to give you their answer yet, as they may have a lot on their minds too. Lastly, remember to focus more on the effort that they are putting into their studies, rather than only on the results.