Practical tips on helping cure your child of maths anxiety.
Of all the legacies you deign to give your child perhaps the most common – and least wanted – is a fear of mathematics.
As per an article published in ‘Harvard Business Review’, 93 % of Americans report experiencing some level of maths anxiety. As per a Programme for International Student Assessment in 2012, across the 34 participating Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, 59 % of the 15- to 16-year-old students said they worry about the perceived difficulty of maths classes while 33 % said number-crunching homework stressed them out and 31 % admitted to feeling nervous when confronted by a maths problem.
Hiba Mehanna, Wellness Consultant and General Manager of Miracles Dubai, explains that the insecurities children face around maths can stem anywhere from societal and family pressures to perform well, to not being able to meet the set standards that peers can reach which can result in being teased by other kids in the school environment. “Children that have received poor maths grades in the past can develop an insecurity towards the subject due to a fear of repeated results, and this insecurity can create an inaccurate belief that they are simply ‘not good at maths’.”
Benjamin Atkins, Head of Secondary at The Aquila School, also says maths makes for an easy target. “People find it acceptable to publicly acknowledge that ‘I was not good at maths at school’ and ‘I don’t like maths’, but would never openly say the same about reading or other subjects. This gives many pupils a false view of what mathematics in secondary school could be like before they even attend their first class,” he explains.
How does anxiety work in kids?
Anxiety around a subject is a learned behaviour. Mehanna explains that in a child’s brain at a neuroscientific level, one can see that neural pathways are at their peak in forming strong connections. “These connections, if continuously used form a neural pattern that results in a future set behaviour. A perfect example is a child who goes to school and has a negative experience in the classroom, if this is a one-time event, the child will feel the negative emotion (shame, embarrassment, etc.). However, it will not form a strong neural pathway and over time it will begin to dissipate. However, if the same child is consistently facing a negative emotion when they are in the classroom, this will create a strong neural pathway that will result in anxiety whenever they’re put in a classroom setting as a child and even into adulthood.
The physical impact
“Although anxiety shows up in children due to repeated neural connections, it can also manifest physically as a sore tummy, headache, fatigue and lack of motivation. These manifestations of anxiety can also be a result of what is known as the gut-brain axis, simply put; your food creates your mood. Children displaying anxiety may bite their nails, fidget, have fluctuating emotions and have a hard time trying to concentrate. Further to this, they may not want to participate in social events, have a change of eating habits and suffer from disrupted sleep.”
Now for the good news. This isn’t a permanent state of affairs. You can subtract the worry from the situation by simply adding in a few elements such as a more conducive learning environment. “The good news is, in terms of maths insecurity and belief of self, it is possible to be reversed depending on the teaching method. This is evident by some children performing better in maths when they feel more connected to the teacher and the learning style of the school. It is important that a child who displays an insecurity in math be nurtured and understood in their way of learning, because when this is lacking it can result in an insecurity in how they process learning.”
A different intelligence
This is exactly what Paramjith Singh found out. The Indian expat’s ten-year-old son was so afraid of numbers that he would run off every time he’d see one. Fortunately, his school counselor spoke to him and realised the problem wasn’t maths, it was an aversion to two-dimensional numbers – he could not understand what they meant. A visualisation technique, where cups and bowls, oranges and apples were used to help the child physically see the difference in digits allowed him to learn them; today, he likes the subject, says Singh.
When it comes to teaching visualisation techniques, every activity can become a learning experience. “Other techniques at home could be to add mathematics into everyday activities – but especially cooking. Involving the child in a practical activity that focuses on weights and measure, but that can also look at ratio, is a great way to build family relationships and improve mathematics skills. Ask: ‘if we need 100g of flour for three people, how much do we need for six?’,” suggests Atkins.
Hareem Navaid, who teaches math and business at Dwight School Dubai, says it’s imperative to acknowledge the problem and then employ a few tried-and-tested strategies to overcome it.
“I teach my students stress management techniques. We do mindfulness exercises such as deep breathing, and meditation during mathematics lesson. These techniques help students to relax during any stressful situation,” he adds.
“The teacher should also make efforts in providing students the autonomy, competency and purpose for each learning objective to keep them motivated and engaged in learning,” he says.
In classrooms, one must also teach test-taking strategies, says Navaid. “Encourage them to solve the easiest questions first. To tackle the hard math word problem, students can draw the word problem to visualise the scenario.
“Encourage them to proactively break down large tasks into smaller more achievable and less stressful small tasks,” he adds.
And you can teach them tricks that will not only make the subject fun but easier to understand. Navaid offers the following hacks:
Multiplying with 99:Subtract 1 from the first double digit number. Then subtract that answer from 99. Then write both answers together. It will be the product of multiplying any doubt digit number with 99.
START THEM YOUNG
Here are some simple (and fun!) ways to start thinking and talking about maths skills with your little one.
Point to shapes
Talk with your child about the shapes you see around you. Maybe on your walk together you notice a round stone or a square sign. “Look, the door on that house is a red rectangle!” Introducing these basic spatial sense skills – the concepts of shape, size, space and direction – will help your child later on in school when they start geometry.
Count it out
Find some small objects – such as shells or beads – to count together out loud. “Look! We have one, two, three, four, five orange beads.” You can also separate them into groups. “Let’s make three piles of three buttons.” This is a great way to introduce the concepts of numbers and operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division). You don’t only need objects to learn how to count – you could also work on counting with your little one by counting out loud how many steps they take or how many times they clap their hands.
Play a sorting game
Recognising patterns and relationships lays the foundation for learning equations later in life. To introduce these concepts to your toddler in a playful way, try playing a sorting game with objects around your house. “Let’s put the red lentils in one basket and the green lentils in the other basket.” You can also lay the objects out in a pattern. “Let’s make a row of lentils: red, green, red, green.”
Have fun in the kitchen
Cooking together is a great opportunity for your child to explore measurement and counting. Make sure to give them age-appropriate tasks and to supervise them closely while you create your culinary masterpiece! Talk about how much rice you need for your meal and show them how you measure it out. If you’re making a snack, count out the food items on your plate: “There are one, two, three, four berries in our snack.”
Build a tower
Stacking objects helps young children to learn about estimating size and understanding the relationship between different sized objects. To make a tower together, you could use blocks, empty boxes, empty cartons or other child-safe objects you have around the house that will stack well. Talk about how the pieces fit on top of one another and if the tower falls, why that happened. See how high you can go!
Compare and contrast
Take notice of the sizes of objects you see in comparison to one another. A market or food store are great places to do this together. “This mango is much bigger than that one.” You can also ask your child to point out which item they think is smaller or larger. This helps your toddler to work on building those important spatial sense and measurement skills.
Source: Unicef Parenting
Parents play a vital role in curing – or infecting – kids with math anxiety. Here are some ways you can help says Navaid.
• Check your attitude: Parents’ own attitude towards the mathematics also impact the children’s approach towards mathematics. Parents should not communicate any negative feelings about mathematics to their children.
• Do your prep work: Encourage time management and organisational skills. Help them to plan and prepare for test in advance.
• One report card grade doesn’t define a child. Your children are more than a grade on a report card. Praise and appreciate the effort, not only the final grade on the report card. Communicate it to your children also. One test won’t make or break the rest of her/his academic life or career.
• Remind your children about their strengths. Build their confidence by affirmations that “you can prepare for it”, “you can do this” or saying, “let’s do it together”. It brings the parents much closer to children and help improve parent child relationship which will help with anxiety as well.
• Tell them, it is easy to improve mathematical skills. Give your children confidence that he/she can improve her math ability by practicing.
• Encourage children to write down emotions. Studies have shown that writing down negative emotions reduces the severity of those emotions.
• Encourage a healthy lifestyle. “Structured bed times allow for enough time for the brain to rest, nurtured learning environments to avoid negative feelings that can result in fixed neural connections, and a healthy diet to feed the gut the vitamins and minerals essential to nourish the brain and its electrical output which we understand as emotions. In doing so not only can you reduce the level of anxiety displayed in a child but, you can also help them to build healthier fixed neural connections that will benefit them all the way into adulthood,” adds Mehanna.
How often have we all experienced pain in life? Pain is oftentimes inevitable in this realm of 3D reality. Once we begin to experience it in our physical body, the only thing we want is for it to go away. Have you ever wondered why it comes? What is the purpose of pain? What is it trying to convey to us?
When I was young, I used to feel a surge of uncomfortable emotions that were painful to deal with. I would like to admit here that up until I reached 30+ years of age I was not even aware of how to label these emotions. I just didn’t know how to make myself feel better. Of course, that’s the irony of social conditioning and the way most of us have been brought up with parents who too didn’t know how to deal with their own inner chaotic world. It does look scary and painful to deal with and imagine if we do not have the awareness of how much scarier it’s going to be.
Children look up to parents for survival and growth. They are extremely important for their physical, mental, and emotional development. If for any reason the parents especially a mother is emotionally distant, unresponsive, or going through her own unresolved issues, the child will feel neglected unimportant, and, in most cases, rejected by her. This could be the feeling even while the child is an infant and is unable to understand one set of emotions from another. This could bring a deep sense of disappointment resentment or anger toward the mother. Despite the painful emotions, a child goes through the job of the subconscious mind is to ensure the child survives regardless of what’s happening in the environment. The child can shut down if this pattern of parenting continues where the child is made to ‘cry it out’ on his own or where the mother (as a primary caretaker) is emotionally unavailable due to her own childhood issues. This situation could prove traumatic for the child. Trauma does not necessarily have to be a big event, it could be as little as the emotional distance a child feels that exist between the parents and subsequently with himself.
Now you must be wondering what does any of this has to do with the physical pain!!!!
The emotional or mental pain (trauma) a child goes through, if it remains unresolved, unattended to, can manifest in the physical body as inflammation later on in life. Unhealed chronic emotions can give rise to chronic pain in the physical body.
In order to heal physical pain, one must understand that we are not just the physical body. Whatever physical pain we feel especially if its chronic in nature has a lot to do with what pain we felt at the mental or emotional level. Hence what got created in the mental and emotional world aka stress due fight/flight/freeze response has to be healed at that level only. Once that is healed it can allow new beliefs new perspective to emerge while dealing with situations in life.
Hence it is important to understand that anxiety and stress can have physical ramifications if not controlled through therapies or counseling. A number of studies have indicated stress can constrict the muscles and nerves, causing physical pain. The physical discomfort is often a signal to the brain that emotional traumas need to be resolved to reduce tension and other issues affected the nervous system. Certain body pains may indicate different emotional problems such as follows:
Headaches and Migraines: may indicate stress and tension.
Neck Pain: may indicate difficulty forgiving those you’re bothered by.
Shoulder Pain: may indicate carrying a big, emotional problem; you’re essentially “carrying the weight of a problem on your shoulders.”
Upper-Back Pain: may indicate you’re feeling unloved of do not have enough emotional support.
Lower-Back Pain: may indicate money problems or lacking both emotional and financial support.
Elbow Pain: may indicate resistance to change in life.
Following are some of the healing methods that can help deal with the physical pains and aches :
Reiki – it truly helps de-stress de-clutter the mind and body.
Hypnotherapy – helps to create an altered state of mind thus allowing a person to regress and heal the root cause. A lot of physical shifts happen when emotional wounds are healed
Family Constellations – it is an Ancestral healing method that allows healing physical issues with the lens of trans-generational trauma. Going back in time and healing the past, frees the client from the symptoms/illness.
Emotional Freedom Technique – It is looking at the physical issues and reducing the intensity of the pains and aches by releasing the stored energy in the body that could be causing it… people have reported feeling a lot better just after 1-2 EFT sessions.
As humans, we all have the ability to heal in a suitable environment. For every effect, there is a cause, so when there is enough human intent and energy towards health, love, and respect towards ourselves and our planet, we will only create a better world and a better life for all people on Earth.
Start by loving yourself, who you are, and why you are here experiencing this life. It’s not a coincidence. You designed it. So take responsibility for your wonderful creation. If you want to change your experience, send out the message and the universe will respond.
If chronic pain is impacting your life, don’t wait to schedule an appointment at Miracles Center.
P.S. We provide complementary therapies in conjunction with any medical treatment you are going through.
Click here for more information about the facilitator Shaista Zeeshan