Anyone can be good at math — as long as parents don’t get in the way.
According to new research published in Psychology Science, it turns out that “math-anxious” adults could be preventing their kid from being the next Pythagoras. Ugh, Mom and Dad really do ruin everything.
The study, conducted by a team at the University of Chicago, observed 438 first- and second-graders and their parents, assessing them on both their math ability and their math anxiety at the beginning and end of the school year. But while the parents did show to have an effect on their kids' performance, math aptitude doesn’t appear to be genetic. Math-anxious parents only negatively affected their kids’ achievements when they helped them regularly with homework.
"We often don't think about how important parents' own attitudes are in determining their children's academic achievement,” researcher Sian Beilock said in a release. “But our work suggests that if a parent is walking around saying 'Oh, I don't like math' or 'This stuff makes me nervous,' kids pick up on this messaging and it affects their success."
But what if a kid really does need help outside the classroom? "We can't just tell parents—especially those who are anxious about math—'Get involved,'" lead study author Erin A. Maloney said in a statement. "We need to develop better tools to teach parents how to most effectively help their children with math." The study authors say that math books, computer and board games or Internet apps could help “allow parents to interact with their children around math in positive ways."