Parents Perspective

Bad News: If You Have Math Anxiety, It May Be Contagious

mom helping daughter do homework
As a child, I was a voracious reader. My ability to read at a young age led my mom to ignore California schools' September 1 cut-off rule and enroll me in kindergarten early. Unfortunately, my math skills were sub-par, and I didn't catch up until high school. I'll never forget a scary meeting with my third-grade teacher and parents after I had majorly flunked a math test. "Math is the worst!" I thought to myself over and over again as I tried to look away from the all the angry red marks on my test. Learning math made me sick to my stomach. Even today, I find myself sweating when the bill comes after dinner with friends, because I'm worried I won't be able to figure out what I owe. (Thank goodness for smartphones!)

I would hate for my future kids to have math anxiety as well. A new study reveals that parents who have math anxiety are more likely to pass it on to their children, and those kids will learn less math over the course of the school year. It is possible that there is a genetic component; however, the study suggests that the correlation exists only if the child's parent frequently helps with homework. It likely has less to do with genes and more to do with how you might be revealing your math insecurities. While it's a relief that genes probably don't play a role, it's not exactly easy to cover up anxiety.

In addition to making my husband -- who is thankfully a math pro/civil engineer -- be on homework help duty for life when the time comes, I plan on exposing my kids to math in fun ways from an early age. The study suggests that "math books, computer and traditional board games, [and] Internet apps" may help spread positive feelings toward math. I can't remember being exposed to anything that was both fun and math-related as a child. Luckily, we've come a long way. There are some new dolls that aim to make math and science cooler for girls on the market  that look promising. I wish they had been around when I was a kid! Maybe I would have been less intimidated by math and science if there had been a Math Whiz Barbie.

Related: Make Learning Math Fun

Surprising Tip on Learning Math

Hannah Werthan is the associate social media editor at Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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