Math Anxiety: Be Part of the Cure

Dad and kids playing math game

I just finished reading a post by Gena Haskett, called Women, Stop Saying You Hate Math on  BlogHer, Life Well Said.  I have only one problem with her entire post in that it was slanted toward women and I feel it applies to parents of both genders.

As a former middle school math teacher, I logged countless hours in parent-teacher conferences. It never ceased to amaze me that parents from all socio-economic backgrounds, openly (many times in front of their own children) bemoaned the fact that they were terrible at math, “Always had been and always would be!” Now, I am sure these parents weren’t intentionally trying to sabotage their childrens’ math experience, but inadvertently that was the message they were sending. These people, mom’s and dad’s alike, from a variety of professions, were all saying one thing, “You can be successful and productive without being good at math…you don’t really need it! Just look at me.”

I, like Ms. Haskett, realize that there are those who had unhappy experinces in math classrooms and even some with math phobia, but I beg you, please take a more positive approach with your children. You would never tell them, or anyone else, you weren’t good at reading, so please stop saying it about math. Instead, show your children ways you use math daily! Math is used whenever money is involved, whether through cash, checking, debit, credit, or just the good old allowance. Shopping for things on sale or figuring the tip at a restaurant are good ways to review percentages. Cooking provides the perfect opportunity to help your children with measurement and fractions. Geometric shapes are found in nature and architecture and make for a great game of “Eye Spy”. As Haskett mentions in her post, games are a great place to review math skills, explore problem solving and strategic thinking. Many of the games we explore on Just Desserts are math related as well.
Math anxiety is real, but as with all problems it does have a solution. Rather than spreading the “disease” to the next generation, lets work together to be part of the cure. Just “sum”thing to help your kids!

Hi, I am Renee' Smith and I began teaching math in, of all places, a maximum security prison. “I was 21 years old and 99 lbs. soaking wet. Some of my students were convicted murderers and as scary as it sounds, it was incredibly sad. Many of those men had failed in the school system and then turned to crime.” That early experience with public school dropouts, cemented my resolve to help future students understand and succeed in the area of mathematics. To that end I dedicated 16 years to the classroom, teaching 5th grade math through algebra. After obtaining my Masters in Education from Baker University, I joined the ESSDACK team in 2007. I have presented at the local, state, and national levels but my most worthwhile experience at ESSDACK has been working to take the fear out of math for teachers and students alike. Although my primary focus has been providing professional development in mathematics, I also devote time to podcasting and creating materials for teachers to use in their classrooms. My podcasts include, By the Numbers, Just Desserts and Math Snacks. Working at ESSDACK has provided me the opportunity to do many of the things I love. “I have the time to research current educational practices, I get to be creative, collaborative, and I meet tons of new people."

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