What does it take to be a math person? Why do so many people think they simply aren't 'math people'? And why is math anxiety so common in America?

Math is important. Most everyone recognizes the fact. Math is in our daily lives, from making sure our cars don't run out of gas to making sure we don’t run out of money, or even making sure we don’t crash our bikes when merging into traffic. Math is an essential tool for safely and effectively navigating reality. But math is also scary. There’s a fine line between someone being able to count the change in his or her pocket, and being able to look at a page of geometry homework without having a minor panic attack.

This phenomenon is called Math Anxiety, and it’s very real. Math Anxiety was first identified in the early 70s by educational researchers. Since, a number of studies have tackled the problem, asking why it is so common, and what it takes to overcome. Math Anxiety typically starts with a gap. When a student fails to understand a core concept in math, it becomes harder to understand the next concept, and the next—A situation that quickly builds into an overwhelming state of math terror.

Worst of all, Math Anxiety is contagious—It often begins when teacher or parents cannot adequately understand what they are trying to teach. This is critical in the home. Researchers have shown repeatedly that when parents and children can work together on homework, children do significantly better. While it’s quite common for parents to read to their children, there is no commonplace equivalent for math. Too often, parents with Math Anxiety feel overwhelmed when their children’s homework starts to advance beyond what can be computed by counting fingers and toes. Without that home support, children are left sitting in a classroom being fed equations and simply told to memorize and perform, by an overwhelmed teacher who probably is facing math anxiety issues as well.

Miles Kimball, an economics professor at the University of Michigan, has devoted a number of articles to tackling the question of why most people don’t consider themselves ‘math people’. Kimball points to countries like Japan, a frequent subject of comparison in assessing American math standards. Japanese students have consistently high math scores, which Kimball largely attributes to effort. Japanese students have nearly 50% more days of school per year than American students. Additionally, they spend up to 4 hours a day on average studying at home. They are also taught math constructively, learning core principals rather than simply memorizing formulas. But the key difference is time and effort.

Luckily, technology may hold the answer. While educational pundits have recently been suggesting algebra be dropped as required high school curriculum to boost graduation rates, researchers like Kimball want to help tackle math anxiety at its core, to produce students who are comfortable with math throughout their educational careers. A recent study from the University of Chicago distributed iPads with math apps to inner-city elementary students. The results were staggering. With the right math app, students showed clear improvement. Surprisingly, having a math app in the home helped parents overcome their own math anxiety, providing an accessible platform for children and adults to comfortably tackle math, together.

One new solution is the Learn & Earn App for Math. Comprehensively meeting Common Core Standards for 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.” With Learn & Earn in the home, the family has a fun, interactive platform that makes math accessible. With Learn & Earn, a real 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. Try Learn & Earn for free on the App Store today!