Math is one subject that causes frustration for some students, yet others breeze through it. Being bad at math doesn’t necessarily mean that the child is poor at studies, but just that math is tough. This leaves many parents flummoxed and scratching their heads.
Why do children suffer from math anxiety? To answer this question, we should first discuss how math is different from other subjects.
How is Math Different?
We should start off by saying that math is not as difficult as some make it out to be. It just has to be learnt in a manner unique from the other subjects.
To solve a math problem, students need to have a good understanding of the logic involved behind the problem. This takes patience, persistence, and openness.
For subjects like science and social studies, students can get away with memorising facts, names, and dates to pass. They don’t even need to pick up a pen while learning. Not so with mathematics. Mathematics has a different cognitive process and learning by rote is next to impossible. One simply cannot memorise the answers to every sum.
While other subjects are just questions and answers (A and B), math requires you to explain how you derived the answer. Therefore, the student must also show the process of going from A to B and why they arrived at B.
Math is also foundation based, meaning that the higher standards build upon what was taught in the lower levels. The formulas and operations learnt at the beginning will be expanded upon in future standards. This makes math cumulative. While this isn’t that much of an issue with other subjects, it is crucial to math. If your child did not pay attention or do well in the lower levels, things will only get tougher and they will have a difficult time.
Why Students Dislike Math
Now, to get to the crux of the problem of why students hate math. There are many reasons for this, and for your child, it could be one of the below or a combination.
Some students consider math to be a boring subject because there are no tangibles and no context. You aren’t learning about animals, countries, or revolutions. You aren’t even studying actual people or places, so why bother?
Another factor is technology. Calculators and mobile phones have made calculations so easy that people are either too lazy or apathetic about doing math on paper. They are probably wondering when they will use these problems in real life and therefore develop an indifferent attitude. Children aren’t able to comprehend why math is important and it is not until they’re older that they finally realize the relevance.
The third problem is the amount of effort required to excel at math. You can’t master a concept by doing just one sum. It takes more time to master math than other subjects, and in this fast-paced world, students don’t want to spend that much time to learning. A child has to write down page after page after page to understand the material, and this is off-putting for many. This is because math has a different learning style than other subjects.
Math’s Learning Style
Math needs to be worked out. There is simply no way for a person to learn and improve in math than to write the problems out and solve them. Math demands application of your knowledge to come up with a solution. The only portion of math worth memorizing is the formulas, which are useless unless you know when and where to apply them.
Some students tend to focus on getting the right solution that they neglect the process and calculations. It should be the inverse, as a correctly worked out problem should lead to the right answer. Even if they get it wrong, they still know how to approach the problem.
For subjects like math, visual videos will help. By watching other people solving problems of a similar stature, your child can learn how the process. Mathematics is a methodical process and requires more interactivity from the student. Visual stimuli will really help them learn.
Advantages of Math
Your child may assume that they don’t need math since they will not pursue a degree for math in the future. However, math is intertwined with many other subjects. Economics, physics, accounting, engineering, statistics, computer science, and medical science all require mathematical knowledge. Learning the basics will give your child a platform in their search for a degree, no matter what it is.
Math is great for helping people solve problems in real life. It helps you be more methodical and plan better. To solve a math problem, as in real life, you have to analyse the situation, figure out the possible ways to approach it, work out the problem, and arrive at the solution.
Nearly everything in this world revolves around mathematics and numbers. Banks, hospitals, shopping malls, and automobile stores are just a handful of the places where people use math. Your child should be able to perform at least basic math as the one of the two most important parts of this civilised society – currency, requires mathematical knowledge to use.
The second important part, time is also measured in a mathematical basis. You have to make calculations in both regular time (12 hour clock) and military time (24 hour clock). It is even more important when figuring out the time in another country as the time zone changes. Buses, trains, planes, events, and offices all operate on a timed basis.
Overcoming Math Anxiety
So, you should now know why children find math difficult, but what’s the solution?
Math anxiety is more of a mental block than anything – the child believes that math is tough or irrelevant and therefore avoids it or does poorly in it.
You should abolish these thoughts from your child’s mind by spending time to tackle math problems. Fear of math can be reduced by parents taking a more active interest in their child’s education. Especially for something like math, parents should sit down with the child and help them write down problems and the solutions.
Start with simple sums to slowly build your child’s confidence and move on to bigger numbers and tougher problems. Try making sums relevant to your child. For example, if a sum says ‘Janani bought 12 apples’, replace ‘Janani’ with the name of your own child. Adding relevancy makes math more enjoyable because they now have real people to relate to.
You should change the way your child studies other subjects as well, placing more emphasis on learning rather than memorizing. If all they do is recall and recollect, they are no different than a robot. Make sure they are grasping the core concepts of the material, be it science, history, geography, or literature. This way, math won’t feel as strange to them. The essence of the subject matter is what will stay with them for life, not the dates and names.
We have prepared revision sheets and question papers for students from 3rd to 9th standard. Our database has papers for CBSE, ICSE, and SSC. You can learn more about our involvement with math for SSC Board students here.
These question papers will be especially beneficial in math which requires children to write out solutions. Let’s Practise can help your child understand mathematical concepts and score well in it. Contact us now.