The messages and words that students hear are what influence how they think they will perform inside the classroom and outside the classroom. Students’ ideas about their ability and potential are extremely important, much more than we think. New studies are always being carried out and it was found in one that the messages students pick up from their parents about math and their parents’ relationships with math can also change how a student believes they will learn and achieve in math.

“The parents’ math knowledge did not turn out to have any impact, only their level of math anxiety.”

In a study including mothers and their daughters when mothers told their daughters they were not good at math in school the daughters grades in math declined almost immediately. Parents’ math anxiety reduced their children’s learning of math through grades 1 and 2, but only if parents helped their children on math homework. If they did not help their children, the parents’ math anxiety did not detract from their children’s learning.

“It is critical that when parents interact with children about math they communicate positive messages, saying that math is exciting and it is an open subject that anyone can learn with hard work, that is not about being smart or not and that math is all around us in the world.”

Teachers need to give positive messages to students at all times. Many elementary teachers feel unsure of mathematics, usually because they have a fixed mindset about their own math achievements. Levels of anxiety held by women elementary teachers also predicted the achievement of the girls in their classes, but not the boys. Girls look up to their female teachers and identify with them.

“Teachers and parents need to replace sympathetic messages such as don’t worry, math isn’t your thing with positive messages such as you can do this, I believe in you, math is an open, beautiful subject that is all about effort and hard work.”