• Banish Math Anxiety | Dr. Aditya Nagrath | Episode 208

  • math anxiety

    Concepts in math build on each other as they go; if your teen runs into difficulty in algebra, then geometry and algebra 2 and calculus are only going to confuse them further. This is how our kids develop math anxiety, compounding years of failed understanding and struggle through their schooling. Dr. Aditya Nagrath joins Mighty Parenting podcast host Sandy Fowler and explains why our kids have math anxiety, how to tell when they have math anxiety and where the breakdown in understanding is happening, and how we can teach them the language of math and rebuild their confidence in themselves.

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    A Favorite Quote from the Show: 

    Math is a language. When kids struggle with math it just means they don’t understand the language.

    High Points From Our Conversation on Math Anxiety:

    Quote on math anxiety

    Math, unlike many other academic subjects, builds on itself; learning each new block requires understanding the previous block. If you get lost on the previous block, every new block that builds on that previous block is going to be a struggle to understand.

    When kids struggle with math it just means they don’t understand the language.

    It’s one thing to memorize the multiplication tables; it’s another thing to understand that 7 times 6 means 6 groups of 7 things. Your kid may memorize the information, but do they understand the concepts behind it? Can they apply those concepts to solving different problems?

    Only the top 20% of income earners have their children enter school understanding the language of math.

    Schools are very good at teaching procedures and teachers are rewarded for kids getting good grades, but if the kids don’t understand what’s happening underneath the procedures and test prep, then those end up being useless.

    Math anxiety happens when a child doesn’t understand and thinks everyone else did. Then kids start making up stories and reasons why they aren’t doing well enough, and work themselves into an emotional tailspin.

    The challenge about helping kids with understanding math is they get emotional when they think they’re behind everyone else’s learning curve (hence the term ‘math anxiety’) and won’t always listen when you tell them that no, they’re not the only ones struggling with this particular concept or section of the lesson. 

    We, as parents, can fill in the gaps with the language of math. When our kids get stuck on a concept in school, the program means they have to keep going even if they don’t understand the teacher. So they’re still accumulating math experiences; if we can give them the language, then those experiences will start making sense. And then they can rebuild their confidence in themselves as the math anxiety goes away, and they start looking at their struggles as misunderstandings (which helps reduce the emotional intensity when they run into problems in the future).

    When a student asks how to do something, the natural human response is to simply show them. However, math isn’t limited to one way to solve a problem, and it gets confusing when the student may have definitions and techniques memorized, but they don’t know what those actually mean or how to figure out which one to apply to solve a given problem.

    With math, you don’t want to look for behavioral change in your kid. If their grades start dropping, don’t look at it as them suddenly underachieving or not putting in the effort, because that is not necessarily the case. What you want to check is if they suddenly have an issue in math where they haven’t before. You actually want to go back and figure out where their gap is to complete that understanding so that they have a full understanding of all these definitions that have led up to whatever point they’re at.

    How does math show up in our lives? Many people look at geometry and Algebra 2 and go, why am I trying to learn this? It’s not like I’ll need it after I graduate. However, math pops up in more areas of our adult lives than you would think:
    • Pilots need physics
    • Trades people use fractions and basic mathematics
    • Designers need to know fractions, decimals, and algebra
    • Architects and construction workers have to understand geometry, algebra and some physics
    • Personal finances (need I say more?)
    • Marketing and business is data driven (algebra, percentages, graph interpretation, data matrices, etc.)
    • Sports coaches and athletes need math for performance analysis and physical fitness monitoring/improvement plans

    A common mistake in perspective is we tend to think of math as just numbers. However, once you get to higher-level mathematics, it’s not just numbers and logic, it’s Is this statement true or false? A lot of the math tools we learn are also philosophical tools, and these will help our kids in most areas of their life during and after school because math hones their logic and reasoning skills.

    We need to help our kids see, especially if they’re struggling now, that there is a point to learning math. It’s not so much being able to apply this technique or solve that equation, but that they will benefit from what math helps them to do.


    What Is A Math Mindset And How Might It Affect Your Family | Zoie Hoffman | Episode 30

    Is Your Teen Acting Out In School Or Showing Anxiety About School? | Dr. Elaine Fogel Schneider | Episode 66

    Relieve Anxiety with Imagery | Dr. Charlotte Reznick | Episode 196

    Our Guest Dr. Aditya Nagrath:

    Dr. Aditya Nagrath discusses math anxiety

    Hi, I’m Aditya, founder and CEO of the world’s most effective math learning platform — Elephant Learning.

    Elephant Learning is a story about the concerning math proficiency statistics that continue to trend down. Students begin that downward spiral as early as pre-school. Our platform equips parents and children with the tools necessary to fully understand math concepts and ultimately build confidence. 

    I know that it is never too late to understand math. At a young age, many of us had the experience of being told that “we are just not a numbers person.” Books have been written on this social phenomenon, and half of all Americans report having math anxiety. As it turns out, mathematics is really about learning jargon, a jargon that is so fundamental to humanity that we consider it vocabulary.

    To learn more or connect with our guest visit https://www.elephantlearning.com/. 

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    From Sandy:

    It’s easier to listen and connect with your teenager when you are calm. Grab Sandy’s complimentary lesson on finding calm at https://sandyfowler.com.