Series: About Early Math

Children’s Math Anxiety May Stem from Parents

A new study from researchers at the University of Chicago, “Intergenerational Effects of Parents’ Math Anxiety on Children’s Math Achievement and Anxiety,” suggests that math-anxious parents who help their children with math homework most likely have a negative effect on their overall math achievement. Parents’ negative comments about math—”I never liked this stuff” or “This never made sense to me”—can easily give children a negative predisposition towards the subject.

Further complicating matters, today’s students are learning different math solution strategies than those their parents are familiar with. For many parents, these unfamiliar techniques exacerbate their feelings of math anxiety.

This research team from the University of Chicago has also published research suggesting that teachers with math anxiety may impart their negative feelings about math onto their students. They found that this is particularly true with female teachers and their female students, as they can easily fall into the stereotype that “boys are good at math, and girls are good at reading.”

These researchers suggest that taking steps to get more familiar with math ideas could benefit students, teachers, and parents. For teachers, this could come in the form of more professional development or more preparation in education degree programs. For parents, books, board games, and apps that feature math ideas could help quell math anxiety at home.