“Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas”- Albert Einstein
When the most influential physicist ever born on this planet feels this way, then why do so many children fear this poetry? It might be disheartening to learn that most children actually hate numbers! According to Steve Chinn, a consultant specializing in mathematics difficulties and author of the boo, The Fear of Math: How to Overcome it, says, “… having to do calculations in class – often quite quickly – if they lack confidence just increases any existing anxiety. Anxiety makes the working memory less effective – children just freeze up.”
Reinforcing this, Jo Boaler, Professor of Math at Stanford University and author of The Elephant in the Classroom: Helping Children Learn and Love Math, says, “Unfortunately, in most schools math is taught as a closed subject with right and wrong answers, and children are drilled that it’s just the formal methods they have to remember. But actually math is an open, creative and flexible subject so as a parent you can try and give them a different experience at home.”
The Teaching Method Counts
It all comes down to how the child is taught numbers and how they apply to life early in life. This is where parents can be of huge help. Even taking your toddler along to count the number of apples you buy can put them on a stronger footing to appreciate numbers, rather than to fear them. This is all the more important, given that the conventional teaching method lacks innovation, makes the subject not only boring but anxiety provoking for many. Most specialist say that math becomes easier when one is able to visualize the numbers and logic better. Unfortunately, this is not something that is taught in our Indian school system. And unless we start early, the longer will be the disassociation with the subject, more will be the hatred, which will turn into a fear someday.
In addition, rote learning has been a prominent method of learning in our schools for decades now. Our exams test children more on what they have been able to cram, rather than how well the concept has been grasped, such that it can be applied to real life. Little wonder then that math, which cannot be crammed, becomes a source of anxiety.
What You Can do?
As a parent, you need to take charge of the situation. You can play a crucial role in helping you child strengthen their imagination and visualization skills, so that an abstract subject like math no longer poses a threat for them. For instance, children fear addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, but they enjoy games. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if games could help them master mathematical concepts? The good news is that with the availability of kids’ tablets, customized for specific age groups, such that they contain educational games that help strengthen specific skills for each age group, math can be fun once again.
There are apps that focus on mathematical concept development for specific age groups, based on the developmental stage of the child, which is the most fun way to learn how to play with numbers and overcome any anxiety associated with them. At the same time, remember to reinforce this learning in everyday life. For instance, you could help your child see how adding up the number of vegetables you buy or multiplying the cost of one product and then seeing how much you would need to pay for four such products can help you shop.
Fear of math is a very real problem, faced by millions of children all across the world. So, don’t be too hard on your little one. Instead, find ways to help them overcome the fear because math is the basis of most aspects of our lives and the key to technological advancement.