Math Anxiety Is Contagious

Math Anxiety Is Contagious

You give it to your kids.

By Vic Napier

Among industrialized nations, Americans have the worst relationship with arithmetic and math. According to a 2015 Pew Research study, in a field of 72 countries, American 15-year-olds placed 39th in math scores.

Those 15-year-olds grow up to be American adults who cannot do simple math.

A research study in the journal Education finds that 71% of Americans cannot calculate gas mileage, 58% cannot figure a tip, and 78% do not have the skills to compute loan interest. How do people manage these routine calculations when they have no idea how to do them? Research suggests they estimate — and “pad” their estimation. In other words, they overpay. Imagine how much money they lose by avoiding simple math.

Babies only a few months old have (very) basic math skills. By the time these babies are old enough to enter college, however, 80% will report math anxiety to researchers. What’s causing the math anxiety epidemic?

The research is clear: It’s us — parents and teachers.

In one sense, math anxiety is contagious. Parents and teachers who are anxious about math easily pass that anxiety onto their children and students.

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