Is “Math Anxiety” Contagious?

24 Oct

Lots of parents help their kids with homework and projects.

But did you know that if you are “math anxious,” you may actually be passing that anxiety along to your kids – by trying to help?

Yup. That’s according to a study of first and second graders published in Psychological Science.

Going back to school concept with blackboard full of numbers and a busy student desk

The researchers found that children learn significantly less over the school year — and have more “math anxiety” by the end of the school year, if their parents are “math anxious.” But only if their parents frequently help them with homework.

If parents help with math homework less often, then the children’s math achievement and attitudes about math were not related to a parent’s “math anxiety.”

That’s right — you read that correctly. The more math-anxious parents tried to work with their children, the worse their kids did in math!


And what makes it worse is then the education system introduces a new curriculum to teach math. Ratchet up the anxiety.

How do you measure your math anxiety?

  • Does anything involving fractions freak you out?
  • Do you pass the restaurant check to somebody else if you are splitting the bill with friends?
  • Do you carry one of those little cards that calculates a 15% tip?
  • Can you figure out how long a 300 mile trip will take if you travel 65 miles per hour?
  • Do you take out a calculator to figure out roughly how much an item will cost – with sales tax?

If the answer to these questions is “yes and my palms get sweaty too,” you may want to think twice about sitting down with your child to help with his/her math homework. Because you may be passing along a contagious impairment.






Print Friendly

No comments yet

Leave a Reply