Can every Child Be Great at Math?

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A recent study by the Child Development Institute found that just about everyone can be good at math. While natural talent does give some students the edge, math is about practice and attitude and that means that patience and determination are the key to better math grades.

Attitude is everything

If your child is saying; “I’m not good at math” then they probably won’t be. Studies show that even gender plays a role in negative math attitudes. From the University of Chicago’s Psychology Department; “Girls tend to have more negative math attitudes, including gender stereotypes, anxieties, and self-concepts, than boys. These attitudes play a critical role in math performance, math course-taking, and the pursuit of math-related career paths.”

Another study found that parents and teachers had different expectations for boys than they did for girls and this led to some girls performing below their capabilities in math.

A study on the influence of parental attitudes towards math also showed that the parent’s perceptions of their own math abilities had a very strong influence on their children’s math performance: “Children’s math attitudes form as a result of environmental influences, especially those that occur in interactions with parents and teachers. For example, parents’ and teachers’ expectations for children’s success in math are biased by their own gender stereotypes.” (Eccles et al. 1990).

A study by Patricia Linehan for Purdue University found that students fell into two attitude camps. Some believed that when they practiced math and persevered they would eventually succeed while others believed that they were terrible at math and no amount of effort would help them to improve.

The latter attitude is called entity orientation and is largely influenced by parents’ and siblings’ attitude to math. This attitude all but guarantees failure for the unfortunate student who just doesn’t put in the requisite effort as they feel like it’s not worth it.

Practice makes Perfect

Studies show that practice and a positive attitude is all that is needed for an improvement in math ability. While changing your family’s attitude towards math is the first step to better grades, you still need to help your child to catch up and keep up.

Start with the foundational building blocks. Each new grade builds on the math taught in previous years and teachers simply do not have the time to go back and reteach foundational math. That means with each passing year, your student is dropping further behind.

A personalized math tutor will be able to find the missing building blocks and fill them in. Be sure to pick a tutor who fosters positive attitudes and teaches the essential executive functions like time management and study skills so that your child has the tools they need to succeed at math.

Ensure that you aren’t fostering those negative attitudes by saying that you aren’t good at math as your child may feel they inherited your math acumen. Stay positive, be encouraging and supportive and remember that practice makes perfect.

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