National Mathematics Day: 4 Ways To Help Children Conquer Their Math Anxiety
National Mathematics Day: Associating the subject with positive reinforcement is one of the most effective ways to help change the way children perceive math.
National Mathematics Day: Try to include maths in day-to-day activities
- Parents need to work on their perspective on maths
- We need to teach kids to understand the subject better
- Parents can help their children create a digital learning environment
National Mathematics Day is observed on December 22. Math has an interesting paradoxical narrative around it in our society. While we wish for our children to excel in it, we unconsciously continue to drive the idea that math is not for everyone. In fact, more than any other subject, math is considered something people are either really good at, or not. These social beliefs have manifested themselves in the way that our children approach the subject. Children today have developed an irrational fear for numbers and have internalised negative ideas about their own math abilities.
In fact, a recently published journal by UNESCO's International Bureau of Education on Math Anxiety, in May this year, identified an increasing number of students that have serious negative emotional reactions to mathematics.
While the fear of Math seems to be consuming the mental bandwidth of children today, it is crucial for us, parents and teachers, to understand that children aren't born fearing Math. Their anxiety towards the subject rises only when they get exposed to other people's negative attitudes towards math and due to the social stereotypes around the subject. It is crucial for us to help our children understand that math is not something we are "good" or "bad" at, but a skill that we can learn through practice.
Here are some ways we can help children conquer their Math anxiety
1. Create 'Positive Math Identities'
Parents and teachers need to work together to help children understand that Math is not an innate skill and that it can be improved through effort. In fact, associating the subject with positive reinforcement is one of the most effective ways to help change the way children perceive math.
However, to enforce this positive attitude in children, parents and teachers need to first change their own outlook on the subject. Practices like insisting that there is only one correct way to solve a problem in math and assigning mathematics problems as punishment for misbehavior, can cause children to associate the subject with negative feelings. While this must be avoided, parents and teachers can instead try to make math a fun and interactive subject. One of the easiest ways to do this would be to engage children in offline and online math games.
2. Celebrate failure and hard work
Children often have a fixed mindset towards math and believe that practice cannot help them get better at it. This in turn leads them to believe that making a mistake or not scoring high in tests mean that they have no innate ability to solve math problems. It is thus crucial for both teachers and parents to celebrate the mistakes children make and to encourage them to keep working hard. We need to collectively stress on children understanding the subject rather than the marks they score in an examination. Teachers and parents have great influence on the way children learn and process things everyday. This form of positive reinforcement can empower children to be truly fearless while approaching a math problem.
3. Use technology as a tool
The advent of technology in learning has led to the creation of a flexible learning format for children. With the prevalence of online learning platforms, children today can learn any math concept at their own pace, at home and in an environment that is devoid of peer pressure, judgements and the need to "catch-up".
In order to aid this process, parents can help their children create a digital learning environment at home and help them explore the various online learning resources available. The visual learning elements and the gamified content on these platforms can engage children and can help them view Math as fun. In fact, research has shown that practice-focused apps can build fluency in basic foundational skills, like recognizing numbers and quantity. Teachers can also make use of various tech tools to turn their Math classes into an immersive learning experience for their students. Teachers need to take into account that tech-enabled teaching allows for visual learning and this can help children grasp the conceptual understanding of different math concepts, thereby improving their problem solving skills.
4. Include Maths in day-to-day activities
With the onset of the pandemic and the temporary closure of schools, parents are now spending a lot more time with their children. This can be an opportunity for parents to bring math to life for their children. Parents can engage their children in many simple activities such as - count Legos during playtime, talking about fractions while dicing vegetables in the kitchen, practice totaling a bill and measuring things with a ruler. These simple activities will help children understand the practical application of math and the role that it plays in our daily lives.
These simple tips can help children understand that math doesn't define them, but can actually help them redefine their world. This could transform their math anxiety into joy
(Divya Gokulnath, Teacher and Co-Founder, BYJU'S)
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