Dr Tom Hunt, Associate Professor in Psychology at the University of Derby

With many parents and carers faced with the challenge of teaching their children maths during the current lockdown, here are the top 4 tips for parents on how to ensure they are supporting their children’s maths learning without the stress.

Parents and carers are not alone in experiencing stress when aiding their child with maths learning at home. What could be a brief, enjoyable, even satisfying experience, can often quickly turn into a heated debate between adult and child.

The current lockdown has left many parents and carers wondering what the best course of action is to support their children’s maths learning. Several questions will have arisen. What can I do to ensure my child doesn’t fall behind? What can I do to ensure my child doesn’t forget what they have already learned? What if I don’t know enough maths? How much work should my child be doing?

What is math anxiety?

Many people will say there is just something about maths that creates anxiety. Maths anxiety comprises the negative cognitive, behavioural and emotional response that some people experience in response to maths.

This may manifest itself in a range of ways, such as generally avoiding anything maths-related, having worrisome thoughts about maths and your maths ability, or even feeling panicky. There are several reasons why people are ‘maths anxious’ and these often point towards early negative experiences. For instance, maths anxious adults will often recall, in some detail, a mean maths teacher who showed little compassion and would even humiliate them in front of the class.

Even people who have “done well in maths” can experience maths anxiety. This is particularly the case when faced with the kind of maths that taps into the same cognitive resources used up by worry. Maths anxiety can stay with a person for a long time and the prospect of supporting a child with maths learning can bring up all sorts of negative memories and feelings. Research findings have shown that parents and carers who experience maths anxiety are more likely to pass that anxiety on to their children if they help with maths homework.

This can place them in a tricky position; they may be aware of their own anxiety around maths and, because of this, they want to support their children to ensure they don’t go on to experience the same kind of anxiety. Yet, perhaps inadvertently, such anxieties can transfer to their children. Does this then mean they simply shouldn’t support maths learning at home? There isn’t a simple answer. However, there is some evidence to suggest that being mindful of one’s emotions, language and body language can be helpful. Here I present a few pointers that may help.

4 Top tips to combat maths anxiety:

1 . Don't Panic

The first thing to say is try not to dwell on such questions as to whether your child is doing enough work or if they will fall behind. Bear in mind that, irrespective of the lockdown, schools vary greatly in their policies concerning homework. Some schools are of the opinion that “schoolwork” should not impede family time, whereas others are quite specific in their recommendations, suggesting children engage in a certain number of minutes of maths work at home each day.

This variation often adds to the uncertainty parents and carers feel when it comes to “doing the right thing”. It is likely that schools will vary in their advice just as much during lockdown as before it. For this reason, try not to compare the maths work your child is doing with children from other schools, or even children from the same school. Social media posts from “helpful” parents depicting “maths at home” can often have the reverse effect, adding to the low self-efficacy and worry already being experienced by parents and carers. Be mindful that teachers will be planning the most appropriate strategy to support your child’s maths learning upon returning to school.

2. Use technology to help – or don’t

Many schools will have been proactive in giving information on what maths work children can do at home. For most, this will involve logging into an online portal. Many parents and carers will be highly familiar with this, others will have some familiarity but feel the need to rapidly getup-to-speed, and some will feel the sudden need to understand what it is all about. Remember that children themselves will be surprisingly savvy when it comes to online technology, so don’t feel like you have to learn the system on your own; children quite like the opportunity to demonstrate how it works. On the same note, don’t feel you have to get drawn into online learning as the only way to support your child.

3. Be mindful of dangerous messages

I have seen several poems and songs posted on social media that reinforce dangerous stereotypes concerning gender and maths. Worryingly, these are targeted at children (and have received thousands of likes and shares). For instance, messages that suggest maths is hard. Those who are maths anxious are already more likely to believe that maths is difficult or even beyond them. Unnecessary reference to maths being a difficult subject only serves to create a barrier in maths learning. Similarly, I have heard the reference of “mums are doing the washing while dads are helping with maths”. Research has shown that people can hold the belief that maths is a “boys ‘subject”. The widespread publication of such messages is damaging to girls ‘attitudes and self-beliefs and parents and carers should take note of the content of social posts before readily liking or sharing.

4. Model positive attitudes and behaviour

Avoid getting frustrated (either with the maths or your child’s response to it) and try to reinforce successful engagement with maths learning rather than simply rewarding completion of a task. Such rewards might be a smile, a high-five or a hug; these can even be open signs of gratitude if your child is able to explain a maths problem/solution to you. Many parents and carers will say that getting children to simply start maths work is the most challenging thing. Maybe begin by doing some maths yourself, perhaps progressing on to your child doing some very simple maths – they don’t need to launch straight into something new each time.

Be creative and open about the relevance of maths to real-life. At a conceptual level, you can state how slicing a cake is fractions, how taking a free kick is angles, how rolling dice is probability, and how rearranging bedroom furniture is shape and measurement. You don’t always need to know the specific calculations involved, but emphasising the relevance of maths in this way can create those light-bulb moments that make all the difference.

The overriding message is that you don’t need to worry that your child will “fall behind”. Don’t think of yourself as having to take on the role of the school teacher. Take care not to reinforce negative maths attitudes and try to integrate maths learning into everyday tasks.

Dr Tom Hunt, Associate Professor in Psychology at the University of Derby

You may also be interested in these articles:

Advertisers

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Video Advert

Newsroom Activity

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter 17 hours 56 minutes ago

RT @FENews: Connected Classroom and 1:1 Learning for Harrogate Grammar School: Based in North Yorkshire, Harrogate Grammar School (@Harroga…
View Original Tweet

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page