Family & Parenting

Does your child's maths homework make you anxious? Here's how to beat it

Maths anxiety is a common issue amongst parents - but it doesn't have to be that way. Lisa Salmon talks to some experts.

Maths can be a source of anxiety for children.

DO you dread it when your child has maths homework, in case they ask you for help? You're not alone.

New research has found half of parents with school-age kids admit to having 'maths anxiety' - basically anxiety about being able to do maths.

Just one in four believe they can confidently answer questions about algebra, while equations leave 35 per cent completely stumped, and even basic times tables leave 14 per cent confused, according to a survey by Akribian (, which creates digital games like Count on Me! ( to help children improve their maths skills.

In addition, 68 per cent of the parents polled are worried helping their child with homework might leave them more confused, and 83 per cent are concerned their own maths anxiety may affect their child's attitude to the subject.

It's a relevant concern, says former maths teacher and headteacher Louise Hoskyns-Staples, honorary secretary of the Association of Teachers of Mathematics (

"Parents have definitely shown greater concern over mathematics than other subjects and often assume that because they found mathematics difficult at school, their children will also have difficulties," she says.

Schools will often help through parents' information evenings, which explain the methods used in school that are significantly different from how parents learned maths, Hoskyns-Staples adds.

However, she suggests that while schools often provide maths homework even at primary level, parents really don't need to help with it.

"In my opinion, this shouldn't need parental involvement," she says, "as teachers would rather know children are struggling than have a correctly completed piece of homework that's not indicative of the child's understanding.

"My hope is that the current generation of children will leave school with a significantly better understanding of mathematics than their parents, due to the focus on understanding, rather than rote learning, that's prevalent in modern classrooms."

Maths anxiety can crop up in everyday life too. Dr Laura Outhwaite, a senior research fellow at the Centre for Education Policy, University College London, says it's estimated that 20 per cent of adults feel anxious when faced with a maths problem, such as the mental calculations needed when splitting the bill in a restaurant.

"This can impact how they feel when supporting children with their maths homework," says Outhwaite.

"If parents feel worried or nervous, it may hinder their children's progress in maths and may make them feel anxious too. But there are many ways parents can feel more confident," she adds, "from thinking positively when tacking a maths challenge, to using technology and teacher-based resources."

Here are Outhwaite's top tips on how parents can reduce maths anxiety.


When working together on maths homework, try to focus on understanding and getting better at the particular maths activity with your child.

This is known as a 'mastery approach to learning', explains Outhwaite.

"By adopting this mindset, you can help your child to engage with maths in a positive way that focuses on the possibility of success and encourages perseverance and fluency," she says.

"This can help motivate and engage your child with the maths activity, and their learning will soon follow."


Try not to compare yourself or your child to others, and don't focus on achieving the best mark possible when doing maths homework.

Outhwaite says this is what's known as a 'performance approach to learning', which can often make us feel stressed and nervous.

"Although some research shows a performance approach to learning can be beneficial, often a mastery approach is much better for helping us feel motivated, engaged, and to ultimately learn more," she says.


Outhwaite says educational maths apps can be an accessible and easy-to-use way of giving children extra maths practice.

"This can also help take the pressure off you, if you're feeling anxious with maths homework," she says, pointing out that research shows children's learning with maths apps is greatest when they provide a personalised learning journey and praise.


"Maths is all around us and there are so many easy and everyday ways you can make it fun for everyone," promises Outhwaite.

If you've got younger children, she suggests trying baking together and discussing different weight measurements, adding and taking away when mixing ingredients together, and division when cutting up your bakes.

"You can also make it easier or harder based on what your child can do in maths, and best of all, you get to enjoy your fabulous baking," she says.


Research shows that a strong connection between home and school plays an important role in children's educational success. So, if you're feeling particularly worried about how to help your child with their maths homework, speak to their teacher and ask for help.

"They may be able to help you with understanding the strategies they teach, or point you to good maths resources," says Outhwaite.

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Family & Parenting