For the first time, scientists have identified a pathway in the brain that links a positive attitude towards math and achievement in the subject. The study of elementary school students performed by the Stanford University School of Medicine found that having a positive attitude about math was connected to better function of the hippocampus. This part of the brain is an important memory center during the performance of arithmetic problems.
Children’s higher math scores have long been observed in those who show more interest in math and perceive themselves as being better at it. And this study shows that even once IQ and other confounding factors are accounted for, a positive attitude towards math can still predict stronger students’ performance.
Researchers had previously hypothesized that the brain’s reward centers might drive the link between achievement and attitude. The belief was that children with better attitudes were better at math because they found it more motivating or rewarding. But, this new study helps to show precisely how a positive attitude can open the door for children to do well.
From brain imaging results, researchers found that when a child was solving a math problem, their positive attitude scores correlated with activation in the hippocampus. The brain’s activity in the reward center, including the amygdala and the ventral striatum, was not linked to a positive attitude towards math. The brain imaging results suggest that the hippocampus mediates the link between positive attitude and the retrieval effects from memory, which is associated with better problem-solving skills. In short, having a positive attitude can act directly on your memory and learning system.
Fostering a positive attitude towards math can prepare children for academic success from a very young age. Every child can succeed in math with good practice, teaching, encouragement, and motivation.
Parents are children’s first teachers, and their attitude and behaviour towards math can influence their child’s perspective. Parents need to motivate and encourage a positive attitude towards math outside of school starting at a very young age.
Children need to realize that math is connected to everyday life. Parents can help children by including them in daily activities that require math, such as cooking, keeping track of time, finding symmetry in nature, in comparing prices at the grocery store.
In fostering a positive attitude, it is also essential to teach a child that it is OK to be confused by a problem and all part of learning. Practicing is the first step to building problem-solving resilience in students. Try to encourage your child to experiment with different approaches when solving problems. There is often more than one way to solve a math problem, and teaching them different strategies can help them tackle different types of issues.
At Dropkick Math, we believe that learning should be fun. Repeated math practice can often become tedious and tiring, so give children assignments in chunks and keep them short. Try different ways of practicing, such as digital games, board games, worksheets, and even physically active games. Our programs offer a fun and interactive way of learning the four pillars of math.
Try to make time for games that can enhance mathematical skills such as algebraic reasoning, number sense, proportional reasoning, and operational sense.
Giving children constructive and honest feedback should be paired with praise and reward for putting in all the effort despite their results. Let the child know how proud you are of them for working hard and show them that you believe in them. Always start with simple problems and move slowly to the more complicated ones while encouraging them to retry challenging problems they failed to solve. This way, their confidence in math increases and any math anxiety may disappear.
Fostering a positive attitude towards math means making every mathematical experience positive. Whether it is homework, practice, or a test, it means supporting and encouraging children, so they stay motivated and feel confident about their mathematical skills. For more information on our programs, contact us today.