What is it like to be a parent of a child with maths anxiety?

We all worry about our children and the anxiety they now have. But maths doesn’t need to be the cause of any extra anxiety at the moment.

Are you and your child totally fed up with worksheets? Worksheets that just don’t hit the mark or help?

Do you struggle to know how to help them to feel more confident and meet their potential?
When our children are upset, we are upset. To see our children struggling and failing to cope with the work that they get from school can be heartbreaking, but also frustrating, often in equal measure!

Why is it that the more you try to help them or try and get them to focus on the maths they just get more and more upset?
Often taking out their frustration and anger at their inability to understand on you, the one that they love the most. You try and help a bit more, and they push you away emotionally. They become more and more phobic about doing any maths at all, and it becomes a battle…

Often the most significant issue that you come to blows with is around their inability to be able to learn and continue to remember their times tables. Yes, those dreaded times tables…

I was speaking to a mum who said that this was exactly her daughter’s problem. She was welling up with tears at how much her daughter now hates maths and how the problem is just getting worse and worse.

So what makes someone so anxious about maths?

Linked to the inability to remember a number fact or a method is the science between anxiety, processing speed and working memory. This is a real biggy in maths teaching and learning!

Working memory is the part of memory that is used in the here and now, to do things and remember them as we are doing it. If I ask you to repeat back a string of numbers or words – you are using your working memory to hold them for the duration of the task.

If I ask you to listen to 3 numbers and then add them up, your ability to do this quickly and comfortably reflects how fast your processing speed is.

So, rather like the processor speed of your computer. Now imagine that you are scared of doing maths for whatever reasons and you become anxious at the thought of having to do maths…

When we become anxious, our brains divert almost all brainpower to our ‘fight or flight’ brain. As this happens, our processing speed and working memory get much less brainpower than usual.

This is like having many tabs or windows open on your computer and it, therefore, taking longer to load a screen. The more anxious you are, the less your brain allows you to process your thoughts at your best possible speed. Thereby you become more anxious as you can’t do that task and so on, becoming a horrible downward spiral.

If we can break the anxiety spiral for your child, by starting back at the beginning and succeeding and winning and enjoying maths, we can alter the whole future of their learning.

There is an excellent quote from Bishop Desmond Tutu, which although he didn’t say in terms of education, I think makes a lot of sense.

‘There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.’

Bishop Desmond Tutu

You have probably already found out, to you and your child’s cost, that repeating worksheet after worksheet that is for their year group syllabus sometimes doesn’t seem to make any difference. All that happens is that your child gets more upset and you get more frustrated. Then, what they can do on one day is lost on them the next time they need to do a similar task. The methods or understanding just isn’t sticking long term.

In the river analogy, those worksheets are just pulling them out the river -numerous times.

To stop the ‘falling in the river’ scenario educational research and dyslexia and dyscalculia experts agree that to repair and improve your child’s maths learning, they need to go right back to the absolute beginning. Build everything from scratch again.

So how can you turn around your child’s maths learning journey and help them stop being so anxious about maths?

I have designed and developed a series of downloadable multi-sensory parent’s courses for parents to learn how to help their primary (lower KS2) child with maths – specially designed for children with maths anxiety who are now phobic about having to do anything mathsy. It will help parents to help their own children and begin to stop the maths anxiety and start to build a new better relationship with numbers and maths. Parents will get printable resources and activity videos which they watch and then do that activity with their child. The first pack of 22 multi-sensory activities is about to be released, and there are a series of subsequent ones lined up to be finished and then launched over the next few months. The idea is that you start with the first pack, which starts right back at the beginning, and then we re-lay all the knowledge with more understanding and no gaps or misconceptions. I have called it Primary Maths Catch Up – as that is exactly what it will help your child do!

Why not give it a try?

What are your experiences of your child’s maths anxiety?

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