Children Disengage from Maths Early and Parents Have a Role

The problem needs to be addressed when they are young, but there is a lack of research on strategies.
May 9, 2024
No parent says "I was no good at reading and writing" the same can't be said for maths.

We know that kids are turning away from maths, we know that the distaste for the subject begins early, less is known about how to remedy the drop out rates from the subject.

Extensive research fails to uncover how teachers can remedy poor student engagement and perform well in maths, but the suspicion is that parents’ influence plays a role.

Research from La Trobe University’s School of Education goes some way to explaining why poor student engagement in mathematics persists around the world.

A new study into classroom practices, led by Dr Steve Murphy at LaTrobe, reviewed more than 3000 research papers. Only 26 contained detailed steps for teachers to improve both student engagement and results in maths.

Dr Murphy said the scarcity of research involving young children was concerning.

“Children’s engagement in maths begins to decline from the beginning of primary school while their mathematical identity begins to solidify,” Dr Murphy said.

“We need more research that investigates achievement and engagement together to give teachers good advice on how to engage students in mathematics and perform well. La Trobe has developed a model for research that can achieve this.”

While teachers play an important role in making decisions that impact the learning environment, parents are also highly influential in children’s maths education journeys.

“We often hear parents say, ‘it’s OK, I was never good at maths’, but they’d never say that to their child about reading or writing,” Dr Murphy said.

La Trobe’s School of Education is determined to improve mathematical outcomes for students, arguing it’s an important school subject that is highly applicable in today’s technologically rich society.

Previous research led by Dr Murphy found many parents were unfamiliar with the modern ways of teaching maths and lacked self-confidence to independently assist their children learning maths during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The implication for parents is that you don’t need to be a great mathematician to support your children in maths, you just need to be willing to learn a little about how schools teach maths today,” Dr Murphy said.

“It’s not all bad news for educators and parents. Parents don’t need to teach maths; they just need to support what their children’s teacher is doing.

“Keeping positive, being encouraging and interested in their children’s maths learning goes a long way.”

Image by Thomas T