A math app intervention may help eliminate the negative association between parents' math anxiety and children's math achievement in early elementary school, according to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.
The researchers tracked the math achievement of 587 students from 40 classrooms in the Chicago area from first to third grade. In the first grade, students and their families were randomly assigned tablets loaded with either a math app or a similar reading app.
Parents were also given a questionnaire to complete in order to assess a variety of attitudes and behaviors related to math and reading. Math anxiety was measured using the Mathematical Anxiety Rating Scale. At the end of the first grade, they were given a second survey to complete. Children's math achievement was measured using the applied problems subset of a nationally-standardized test.
By the end of third grade, children of math-anxious parents who were in the reading app control group had learned less math than children of parents with no math anxiety, learning the equivalent of approximately five fewer months of math. However, this was not the case for children in the math app intervention group, and children with math-anxious parents showed the same math progress as students with parents who had no math anxiety.
These results suggest that parents' math anxiety is negatively associated with children's math achievement in early elementary school, and that the decreased negative association observed in the intervention group is due in part to a change in parents' attitudes. The researchers conclude that when families used the app together, parents' attitudes toward math changed and they were able to disassociate their own math anxiety from their children's ability in math.