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How to help a kid with Maths Anxiety.

Q: ” My child is battling with Maths. Not only the subject, but his profound anxiety around it. I feel he has lost his confidence and almost works himself up, telling himself he can’t do it and that it is pointless to try. This anxiety is now spilling out into other subjects. I don’t want a kid who thinks of himself as someone who “can’t.” ”

A: ” Hi, my son got 34% for maths in Gr8, he was so far behind and it stressed him out to a point where he hated the subject. He did not even want to go to school anymore. A year later and extra maths classes once a week … and he gets 88% . I strongly recommend extra maths classes, not on-line but with maybe one or two other kids. The challenge is to find someone that has the passion and patience to teach kids. Good luck and don’t give up on maths!”

” Try my daughter finds it MUCH better than human teachers… and it keeps giving them more of what they need. – you get great feedback on absolutely everything they’re doing too.”

” If you’re looking for holistic tutors who can help with Maths, but also emotional and social support, we’d love to help

” Once you deal with the anxiety, there are many good online programs: Khan Academy, NB Maths (The first lesson is free,) You could try Master Maths, Number Sense, Mathletics, CastboxFM, there’s a company called Brightsparkz which has tutors in every subject, but once you have a block in place, it is hard to thrive. I’d suggest a few sessions with a life coach or educational therapist, to get to the bottom of the problem and build up confidence. Before the success, you have to build a success mindset.”

” My youngest battled with maths for years and it caused her a great deal of stress and anxiety (and us on her behalf.) We went through several tutors and other options to help her but nothing really helped. We allowed her to drop maths in favour of Maths Lit in grade 10. Her anxiety and stress was instantly relieved and her marks in other subjects improved! For her it was the right decision but obviously this does limit the number of degrees you can apply for at Uni so needs to be carefully weighed up. Some people are just not cut out for Maths. If your child is not yet in grade 10 then research the advice on tutors and online programmes posted by the helpful people above to see if anything helps. If nothing helps then your child needs to reconsider dropping maths. On the positive side though my other daughter was told to give up maths and Physical sciences in grade 10 but wanted to keep trying so we supported her. In the end with a bit of help and encouragement she got 92% for Maths and 93% for physical sciences, coming in in the top 1% of students nationally for IEB matric. She is now 2nd year into a Chemical Engineering degree and coping really well! I am not telling you this to brag but to highlight that every child is different and needs different help and support to realize their future dreams. If your child already knows what degree they might pursue and if it doesn’t require maths then there is no point in doing it. One of the top achievers in my kids highschooI opted not to do maths from grade 10 as she was going to study a law degree that did not require maths. She focused on her other subjects and did exceptionally well. And of course got nearly 100% for maths lit! I hope your child gets the help they need and does well but if maths is something that truly causes a great deal of stress and anguish consider dropping it and guide them towards a different career path.”

” Steve Sherman, ( the legendary Mr S, Cape Town maths teacher responsible for igniting a love of maths in many generations of school kids, and a Villager,) wrote in a piece for Indian Brainfeed magazine: Some highlights – ( the rest of the piece is definitely worth reading:) ” The root cause of anxiety may include a negative experience, poor performance in tests, anxiety associated with writing tests, a teacher who goes too fast or does not explain properly, classmates that ridicule a student for asking a question or their performance on a test, low self-esteem and poor self-confidence, learning difficulties like dyscalculia, content is presented at too high a level, a student might have missed a few lessons and the new content builds on the content they missed.” Many reasons that things can go wrong which might have nothing to do with a child’s ability. He continues,” What often comes up in conversations that i have with students is the role that a teacher or parent has played in the development of their anxiety. Students also raise the issue of being confused by different teaching methods and others feel that their teacher has difficulty articulating the content. what is also common is the transition from primary to secondary or middle school. the work is perceived as harder and they feel that they cannot cope. from primary school where number sentences move to letters (algebra) in secondary school, you can appreciate that this will confuse many students. secondary students also complain about greater pressure from tests, exams and ridiculous amounts of homework.”

The piece goes on to detail practical ways to support a child, suffering from maths anxiety, including:

  • Be involved
  • Encourage a growth mindset: EFFORT trumps ability
  • Be positive about maths
  • Overcome gender stereotypes
  • Make maths relevant to everyday life
  • Take baby steps
  • Allow mistakes
  • Go back to basics.”

” Go right back to basics, identify gaps and fill them securely to develop his number confidence and ability to choose and use a range of strategies. No point pushing forward if gaps haven’t been filled.”

” Have a look at your own messaging around maths as a subject. Do you say that you were rubbish at it as a child? Are you unknowingly re-inforcing how difficult and awful it is as a subject? Parental anxiety infects our children who do watch us as role models, even when they are older. Perhaps change your own language around maths to a “can-do,” “sort-it-out,” mentality, to instill some confidence?”

” Our kid was in the top maths stream at a big, academic school. She started off filled with confidence about maths in Grade 8 and 9, but, by the end of Grade 9, her teachers and the head of subject recommended that she swap to Maths Lit. I felt that she could do maths and could enjoy it again, so I suggested that she rather drop to the slowest stream. We promised her and the school that if her marks didn’t improve by mid year, she could drop to Maths Lit. It was just what she needed. with a slower pace and more time to ask questions, with less peer pressure to feel stupid if she did, she ended up finding her “maths brain” again. She is not a “top stream” Student but neither did she need to go to Maths Lit, she’s back getting good marks for Core Maths again and is delighted that she is in a position to consider those “Maths ” subjects for varsity next year.”

” A lot of teenagers, try to avoid issues which cause them to feel inadequate. You might find that the amount of studying and practicing the child is doing has dropped off, as they have found the subject more difficult? Practising is key to success in this subject. Perhaps you need to instill some regular, non-pressurized but methodical catch-up sessions?”

” Don’t hope that problems with maths, will come right by themself. Maths is one of those subjects that the sooner you can identify a problem and deal with it, the better. So get some help to plug any holes as fast as you can.”

” Sudden difficulties with maths when there were none before, can often be an early indicator of something else going wrong. They may have lost concentration, missed focus, while something overwhelming is happening elsewhere. I always say, that if maths stumbles, something elsewhere could very ell be in free fall. Look to see if anything else in his life needs attention and care.”

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