For the Love of All Things Not Math

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My daughter is officially done with second grade.

School is out for the summer and I couldn’t be happier.

It was a rough year, but my daughter survived and even managed to score a perfect 4.0 on her report card.

Straight “A”s, including in her least favorite subject-—math.

When I congratulated her on the impressive accomplishment, my daughter noted that she was surprised that she had received an “A” in mathematics.

“I hate math, Mommy!” she exclaimed.

Translation: Math doesn’t come as easy to her as reading, spelling or Social Studies. It actually requires working a little harder to master the subject, and, boy does she hate that.

I know, because I was her.

I loathed math in school, and quite frankly, I don’t much care for it as an adult. So, when my daughter emphatically announces that she despises adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing, I often wonder how much of her feelings stem from my own anxiety about the subject.

TIME Magazine recently published an article detailing the damage parents do to their children via “adult-to-child transmission” of attitudes about learning. In particular, the article cited new research done showing how a mother’s apprehensiveness about mathematics may be passed down to her daughter.

Parents’ “own personal feelings about math are likely to influence the messages they convey about math to their children,” noted researchers. In other words, if you hate math and constantly kvetch about how bad you are at it or routinely express negativity about the subject in front of your child, there is a very high likelihood that he or she will adopt the same perspective.

To avoid this from happening, researchers suggest that you don’t say, “I’ve never been good at science,” and “I can’t do math to save my life,” especially in front of your children. Researchers also found that younger children are especially likely to emulate the attitudes and behaviors of the same-sex parent. Meaning if mom hates math, her daughter may reason that it is okay to dislike the subject too.

Again, to avoid passing on your pessimistic attitude about a particular subject, experts recommend that you watch your language. Also, be willing to work with your child, even if it means having to take a refresher course to do so. Who knows; perhaps you’ll learn a thing or two in the process and find that math, science or spelling is not as intimidating the second time around.

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.

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