Calculating a tip requires simple math, but the process can leave many adults so uncomfortable that they can’t do it without the help of a calculator.
Researchers refer to this feeling as math anxiety. A review of 60 years of research on the subject shows that adults and children alike experience a fear of math that can interfere with their ability to perform and cause them to avoid math-related careers. A recent survey of 400 teachers who participated in a MathWorks Math Modeling (M3) Challenge organized by the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics found that 68 percent of those teachers believe the biggest hurdle to their students’ math success is confidence.
That’s a problem, as parental support of their children’s math skills is critical to learning. Not only can math anxiety interfere with parents’ ability to help children with homework, but researchers found that students perform worse in math if their parents have high levels of math anxiety.
Still, it’s very important for parents to get involved in their children’s math education, said Julianne Herts, a Ph.D. student at the University of Chicago who studies math anxiety. “Parents think math is the purview of school, whereas they think reading is a shared responsibility, but we know that the quantity and quality of math input in the home is really important for children’s math achievement later on,” Herts said.
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