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Is your math anxiety hurting your kids academically? New study shows an app will help.


In addition to bedtime stories, kids can benefit from some bedtime math, especially if their parents have math anxiety. A new study led by psychologists from the University of Chicago shows that using a math app — specifically within this study, the free, nonprofit app Bedtime Math — helps parental math anxiety and positively affects their children’s math achievement in early elementary school.

The study, “Disassociating the relation between parents’ math anxiety and children’s math achievement: Long-term effects of a math app intervention,” appears in the December issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

“Math-anxious” parents – those who have a fear or discomfort about math – have been found to impede their children’s learning of math.

“Many Americans experience math anxiety – whether it’s calculating a tip on a dinner bill as your friends look on or doing math homework with your child,” study co-author Dr. Sian Beilock, a cognitive scientist and the president of Barnard College, said in a prepared statement. “When parents are apprehensive about math, their children’s math achievement in school can suffer. Bedtime Math [the specific app used for the study] provides a structured, fun way for families to incorporate math into their daily routine, and changes – for the better – parents’ attitudes about their children’s math ability.”

Dr. Susan Levine, a developmental psychologist at the University of Chicago and study co-author, added, “With the app, math-anxious parents have a chance to see their children engaging productively in mathematical thinking, which leads them to change the way they think about their children’s ability to achieve in math.”

Bedtime Math delivers quick math story problems for parents and children to solve together. Earlier results of the study, published in the journal Science, found that children who used the app gained an additional three months of math skills over children who didn’t use it. The new results show that the gains in achievement persisted two years later, even if families decreased or ended their app usage.

“Many promising education reforms have only limited impact that fades away over time. Few are proven to move the needle,” Laura Overdeck, founder of the nonprofit Bedtime Math, said in a prepared statement. “By contrast, we’ve succeeded in giving parents a free, simple tool that stokes major lasting jumps in their children’s math skills, effectively changing their academic trajectory.”

 

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