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The Real Reason Your Kid Is Bad at Math

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I grew up with the belief that math just wasn't my thing. In elementary school, I loathed those bubble tests, the ones that now come in the form of math fact timed tests.

I wouldn't say that math made me anxious—I just didn't like it. I was a dreamy, creative kind of kid and memorizing math facts didn't inspire me.

By high school, I was certain that I couldn't do math. I checked out the minute math class began and checked back in at the sound of the bell. By then, math made me anxious.

These days I have a new appreciation for math. My daughter spent the last year teaching me that new mind-boggling CGI math that's going around. And, guess what? It actually makes sense to me.

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Before you argue that CGI math is too time-consuming, too frustrating or too something else annoying, let me say this: I hear you. It's not for everyone. My 6-year-old son solves complicated math problems in his head without a single drawing of a number disc to help him along. In fact, he finds CGI math time-consuming and redundant. It's not for everyone.

That's the thing about math anxiety: When we are taught that there is one "right" way to do math, someone will be anxious. When we work through that one style of math thinking that we just don't get it, we develop negative beliefs about our ability to understand math. And that? That causes anxiety.

It's time to work through feelings associated with math anxiety, parents, because a new study shows that math anxious parents are likely to raise math anxious kids. Published in Psychological Science, the findings of this study suggest parents' attitudes about math, specifically when helping kids with homework, play a significant role in a child's math achievement.

What can math anxious parents do to stop the cycle of math anxiety in the family? Try a few of these strategies:

1. Reframe your thoughts

Instead of fretting about what you don't know, challenge yourself to learn something new. When parents respond to math homework with statements like "I just don't understand this stuff" or "I was never very good at math," kids pick up on the anxiety and negative associations. They view math as something to be feared instead of something to enjoy.

You can't force yourself to love math, but you can set goals to try to learn something new or understand a new math concept. When parents send the message that math can actually be fun to learn, kids are more likely to develop positive associations with the subject.

Ask your child to you show you her favorite math games and take turns crunching numbers together.

2. Ask for help

While many teachers ask that parents refrain from helping kids with math, there still tends to be an expectation that parents will provide emotional support while kids do their homework. It's difficult to be supportive when one look at a math worksheet sends you into a panic.

Reach out to the teacher and ask for notes or a brief explanation of the concepts so that you can understand what your child is learning.

3. Increase the fun factor (for you)

Between board games, apps and educational websites, math is no longer just numbers on the page. When it comes to teaching kids, the options for fun math are endless. Why not get in on the fun?

Ask your child to you show you her favorite math games and take turns crunching numbers together. If apps and computer games aren't your thing, bring back family game night. There are numerous options for board games that involve counting (whether it's cherries for little ones or money for big kids). Make the connections between math and board game play while you play the game to remind yourself that math can be a lot of fun.

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Math isn't for everyone. You don't have to pretend to love math to support you child's learning. You simply have to learn to work through your math anxiety so that your child sees math is not to be feared.

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