Most parents remember the glory days of homework; spelling, addition, and so on. Easy work that makes you feel like a genius, and sound like one to your child. But there’s a turning point. Eventually, parents look down at a page at the end of a long day, expecting another simple task that hopefully doesn’t involve more counting than can be done with 10 fingers and 10 toes. Instead, there’s a strange grid with numbers on all sides, facing off like fighters in a cage match. Or worse yet, long division. So what does a good parent do?

When math anxiety sets in, a child loses something more important than an answer-checker. If parents and children don’t actively engage, learning stops at school. That dialogue helps a child build the foundational skills to succeed. A group of researchers from the University of Chicago have tackled this question, asking why math doesn’t have a greater role in the home. While parents commonly read to their children, helping boost their language skills and get them ready for scholastic success, math rarely receives the same level of focus.  

The researchers conducted a randomized experiment, giving iPad minis to 587 first graders from 22 Chicago schools. 420 of the students were given a math app, with the remaining 167 acting as a control group, using a proven reading app. The assignments were completely random. Parents were interviewed, to gauge levels of math anxiety. Students used the app throughout the school year. At the end of the year, their math success was compared to students from the control group. And the results were staggering. By the end of the school year, children of parents with high math anxiety were 3 months ahead of the control group in math knowledge. 

If a family used the app at least once a week, researchers saw serious improvements in math abilities regardless of the parents’ comfort with math. The bottom line— The right math app can make a real difference. Technology in the home can be more than a pleasant distraction. The study demonstrated that the right app can bridge the gap between children and parents, and establish a place in the home for regular math practice. Practice that yields real results. 

To choose the right app, researchers figured out a few basic requirements: The app had to be focused on the material, without too many distracting animations and games. The app had to align with Common Core Standards for the grade levels offered. Finally, the app needed to promote positive interactions between parents and children around math.

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One app that fits the bill is the Learn & Earn App for Math. Comprehensively meeting Common Core Standards for math grades 1-4, Learn & Earn is a motivational platform connected to Amazon and iTunes. Kids select a reward to work for, and parents set their expectations— "If my child does 5 minutes of math a day for a week, I’ll spend $10.” And with Learn & Earn, the reward is just a few clicks away. The science is solid— Math Apps show real results, and Learn & Earn is the platform to make it happen. The Learn & Earn app is available on the App Store for free.

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