Stop telling kids you’re bad at math. You are spreading math anxiety ‘like a virus.’

The Washington Post

April 25

When I read the following post, I was chagrined to see myself in it. Are you? Here’s why you need to change your tune. This was written by Petra Bonfert-Taylor, a professor of engineering at Dartmouth College and a 2016 Public Voices Fellow of the OpEd Project, a non-profit working to increase the range of public voices and ideas.

By Petra Bonfert-Taylor

“How was skiing?” I asked my 14-year old daughter as she hauled her boot bag into the car. “Well, the ratio of snow to ground was definitely low,” she replied, adding that she had tried to figure the ratio of snow-to-ground during practice but had received only mystified looks. “Stop the math!” demanded a coach. “You are confusing us!”

Why do smart people enjoy saying that they are bad at math? Few people would consider proudly announcing that they are bad at writing or reading. Our country’s communal math hatred may seem rather innocuous, but a more critical factor is at stake: we are passing on from generation to generation the phobia for mathematics and with that are priming our children for mathematical anxiety. As a result, too many of us have lost the ability to examine a real-world problem, translate it into numbers, solve the problem and interpret the solution.

Mathematics surrounds us, yet we have become accustomed to avoiding numerical thinking at all costs. There is no doubt that bad high school teaching and confusing textbooks are partly to blame. But a more pernicious habit does the most damage. We are perpetuating damaging myths by telling ourselves a few untruths: math is inherently hard, only geniuses understand it, we never liked math in the first place and nobody needs math anyway.

Often adults are well-meaning when telling children about their own math phobia: after all, won’t it make the children feel better if they know that others feel that way as well? Research shows the answer is a resounding “no.”

Anxiety over mathematics has been recognized as a grade killer. The National Mathematics Advisory Panel of the U.S. Department of Education has found that anxious students perform lower than their abilities. What’s more, there is growing evidence that mathematical anxiety can be passed on like a virus from teachers to students as well as from parents to children.

Girls are especially affected when a teacher publicly announces math hatred before she picks up the chalk. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported that female — but not male — mathematical achievement was diminished in response to a female teacher’s mathematical anxiety. The effect was correlated: the higher a teacher’s anxiety, the lower the scores.

Parents’ mathematical anxiety can have a similar effect on their children. Researchers observed that children who received math homework help from mathematically fearful parents showed weaker math achievements than their peers, which in turn resulted in increased math anxiety for the children themselves.

 What we need to do instead is encourage our children to persevere. In France, for example, math skills are appreciated and it is quite cool to be good at math. Teaching — especially math teaching — is a highly respected and well-paid profession, even at the preschool level and children there are trained early to appreciate the art of mathematics.

Working on mathematical skills is not unlike practicing a sport: neither can be learned by watching others perform the activity and both require encouragement and effort. In the words of Michael Jordan: “I’ve missed 3,000 shots. Twenty-six times the game-winning shot has been trusted to me, and I’ve missed. I’ve lost over 300 games. I’ve failed over and over and over again, and that is why I’ve succeeded.” (Notice the math in that statement?)

You do not need an innate mathematical ability in order to solve mathematical problems. Rather, what is required is perseverance, a willingness to take risks and feeling safe to make mistakes. The next time you help a student with homework, try to repress the “I hate math” instinct, which is even worse than making a few flubs.

Instead try to have fun and give reassurance that perseverance will yield results. Numbers are always simple, clean and beautiful — and nothing to be afraid of.

When Your Child Wants to Become a College Athlete


across the educational pipeline with arrows.jpg

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of blog posts reflecting on the educational pipeline by Karen Gross, former president of Southern Vermont College. She has taught students from preschool through graduate school. Her first piece covered breaking down pre-K–20 silos, and her second piece covered changes in the college admission process. Her next piece will focus on reimagining preschool education. Her children’s book, Lady Lucy’s Quest, was just released.

Many children dream of becoming an athlete in college and then professionally. Parents are excited by the idea of their child receiving a full-ride athletic scholarship, not realizing how challenging it is to obtain and retain one. However, how high school students “get into the collegiate game” is complicated and filled with pitfalls.
Athletic recruiting is a big business. Many books, articles, and movies explore the issue. (See The Blind Side.) NCAA’s rules are numerous. Some provisions make perfect sense. For instance, a student cannot be considered a prospect before ninth grade. Some measures seem absurd. Consider that a college recruiter cannot even buy a cup of coffee for a Division III transfer recruit when visiting that student at his or her original institution.
I am familiar with the vagaries of collegiate and professional athletics from being in the trenches both as a parent of a Division I athlete and an educator at a Division III institution. Our son attended a sports academy in his last years of high school after having been a student at an independent K–12 school. He was recruited and competed as a Division I athlete, but he then transferred out of that DI college to a university that did not offer DI sports. He has since graduated from college, earned a PhD, and is now a professor.
I’ve established my own bona fides in athletic recruiting in many ways. While I was president of Southern Vermont College, an NCAA Division III school, I served as president of the New England Collegiate Conference and also participated in the NCAA Division III President’s Advisory Group. I have personally recruited athletes (I’m four for four), and have worked with a remarkable NCAA lawyer on issues involving NCAA rules and possible infractions. I have also written about collegiate athletics for an NCAA magazine and for the online publication CollegeAD.
Based on my experience, I offer six key points to help guide parents, teachers, school counselors, and coaches of students attending independent schools.

Point 1. The NCAA Is More Than Just Football and Basketball.

NCAA’s moneyed sports, with their televised football and basketball championships, receive the lion’s share of public and media attention. Individual NCAA-sanctioned sports that many independent schools offer, such as tennis, golf, and track and field, receive a limited amount of attention.
But here’s what matters: There are currently 24 sports in the NCAA, although that number fluctuates a bit with emerging sports and sports that are dropped. NCAA sports include soccer, fencing, gymnastics, lacrosse, and rifle. Bowling and rowing are options only for women under the NCAA moniker. This year, the NCAA will add beach volleyball.
The bottom line: A student can be an NCAA athlete without being a football or basketball player and still receive the benefits of being part of the NCAA, including national championships. However, he or she must also deal with the NCAA’s obligations and restrictions, and those can be burdensome.

Point 2. Opportunities to Earn Sports Scholarships Exist Outside the NCAA.

Students can play other sports in college that are not sanctioned by the NCAA. Take squash. The NCAA dropped it from its list of sponsored sports in 2010, but some Division I schools continue to offer squash scholarships. And, strangely, men’s rowing, the nation’s oldest collegiate sport, is not part of the NCAA. The sport’s championship is sponsored by the Intercollegiate Rowing Association. Male rowers can receive scholarships, but the dollar amounts tend to be small.
The bottom line: Many competitive collegiate sports do not fit within the NCAA umbrella, but students can still receive scholarships and play in championships. Independent schools offer many of these non-NCAA sports.

Point 3. Another College Athletic Association Grants Many Scholarships.

The NCAA is not the only collegiate athletic governing body. About 300 schools belong to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), which includes 13 sports. Although the NCAA includes more than 460,000 student-athletes and some 1,200 participating colleges and universities, the NAIA covers some 60,000 students — sizable, but not in comparison to NCAA institutions.
Some statistics to note: Of the NCAA’s participating athletes, about 126,000 receive partial or full scholarships. About 90 percent of participating schools in the NAIA give some form of scholarship. So if a student wants an athletic scholarship, he or she has a greater likelihood of obtaining one from a school in the NAIA than one in the NCAA. Indeed, there are almost 450 NCAA Division III schools, none of which are allowed to provide true athletic scholarships.
The bottom line: If a student aims for a scholarship, it is worth investigating NAIA schools. Keep in mind that these programs do not have the NCAA acclaim and have weaker ties to professional sports.

Point 4. Success Does Not Mean Turning Pro.

Many students (and their families) dream of the possibility of “going pro.” But most student-athletes never do. NCAAdata show that fewer than 2 percent of collegiate basketball and football players become pros. For baseball players, the number is 8.6 percent. Nothing to write home about, for sure.
These numbers make it important for a student to choose a college based on more than who coaches his or her particular sport, which college program has the best win-loss record, and which institution produces the most pro athletes. For one thing, coaches can leave. Next, a successful program could mean that new student-athletes, even those who are recruited, do not play initially (if ever). If a student cannot play for whatever reason, is he or she still happy at the institution? It’s crucial to consider the quality of the college’s academics and the range of career options other than becoming a professional athlete.
The bottom line: The definition of success, athletic or otherwise, is not so clear-cut. Success does not equal turning pro.

Point 5. Families Should Start Thinking About Athletic Participation Before 11th Grade.

All NCAA divisions allow walk-ons, and some of these student-athletes have incredible careers. (See the movieGreater about Arkansas’s football player Brandon Burlsworth.) But, this is not the norm.
Colleges typically recruit high school athletes who have participated in extracurricular athletic camps and clinics, particularly in the summer. Football camps, soccer camps, and basketball showcases allow high schoolers to hone their skills and catch the eye of college coaches. Much recruiting starts with these showcases and camps.
Recently, an NCAA rule banned what’s called satellite showcase football camps. These traveling clinics allowed college coaches to observe high school athletes’ skills and help them develop as players. Sadly, those most hurt by the rule change will be low-income kids who cannot afford to travel to attend camps.
Here’s an important caveat: For some collegiate sports, coaches can study national rankings to determine a high school athlete’s ability. Take a golfer with a very low handicap — that ranking speaks for itself. Or consider ski racing, with its international ranking system. A coach can examine a high school skier’s accumulated points in specific races to see how he or she compares with peers. To be sure, that does not address the question of team fit or an athlete’s work ethic.
The bottom line: College coaches recruit at established events and camps. It’s worth considering whether to pursue a sport with a ranking system, if your family can afford to travel from event to event to rack up points or garner national or international ranking.

Point 6. There’s Much Value in Competing in the NCAA’s Division III.

Many people are under the misconception that the only NCAA division with competitive athletics is Division I. I know from experience that Division III offers quality, competitive athletics, too. Students who cannot or choose not to compete at the Division I level can enjoy enormous success in Division III.
Some also believe that Division I actively recruits whereas Division III does not, and that money is only available at Division I institutions. Both statements are wrong.
At the Division III level, students often have more opportunities to play — and sooner. In less hierarchical programs with fewer players, first-year students can play. Division III championships are considered major events for the student-athletes, the coaches, and the institutions.
While Division III institutions cannot offer athletic scholarships, they can and do offer other scholarships and financial aid. Two examples follow:
  • An institution that offers aid to families with incomes below a certain threshold can offer that money to student-athletes. Athletes must not be treated differently than other students with financial need.
  • Institutions that offer leadership or community service scholarships can offer those to student-athletes who have met the criteria.
The bottom line: There’s remarkable value in Division III athletics by any measure.

Weigh the Pros and Cons of Pursuing Athletics in College — Carefully

Collegiate athletics and college admission for athletes are complex topics, filled with rules, choices (both athletic and academic), and financial implications.
As a parent, a professor, and a college president, I believe in the power of athletics.  Some students first find their way on a court or a field. And good coaches can be lifelong mentors. Moreover, many employers like hiring athletes for several reasons: They understand hard work, embrace competition, appreciate failure — and know that “team” has no “I” in it.
Nonetheless, being a collegiate athlete takes immense effort, even for those who have no wish to go pro. It’s important to be as informed as possible early on.
It’s hard to play in college if you don’t understand the game in every sense of the word.

16-0222-KarenGross-bio.jpgKaren Gross has taught and continues to teach across the educational pipeline. This spring, she is teaching at Bennington College in Vermont. She writes, consults, and advises on how to improve student success and has a forthcoming book titled Shoulders to Learn On (2016) on this very topic.
A former college president and senior advisor to the U.S. Department of Education, Gross currently serves as senior counsel to Widmeyer Communications, a Finn Partners Company, and as an affiliate to the Penn Center for MSIs at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. She writes for many education outlets, including The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, InsideHigherEd, Unplugged, DiverseEducation, Evollution, CollegeAD, and NAIS.

5 Things Teachers Wish Parents Knew: Your Children Can Do More Than You Think

The New York Times

By JESSICA LAHEY date published MARCH 13, 2014

This week, I’m turning the tables and giving some space to the “teacher” half of the “Parent-Teacher Conference.” When I ask teachers, “What one thing would you want your students’ parents to know?” the same five points come up over and over again.

1. Your kids can do much more than you think they can do. Despite all evidence to the contrary, your children do not need your help tying shoes, zipping jackets, sharpening pencils, packing their backpacks and lunch, or any of the million other tasks they expect you to do for them every day.

Take some direction from kindergarten teachers. If you think it takes an eternity to get your children out the door, imagine getting 20 children out the door, six times a day. Elementary school teachers are masters of delegation, so the child proficient at shoelaces becomes their “tying expert,” and the boy with a skill for zippers becomes the designated “zipper helper,” and before you can say “self-sufficient,” every child in the class has learned to tie and zip and mitten themselves. The next time your child tells you they can’t do something, step back and wait.

2. It’s not healthy to give your child constant feedback. When children require approval on every scribble, homework problem and picture they draw, it’s probably because they have been offered feedback on every scribble, homework problem and picture they draw. It’s vital that children develop their own internal locus of approval and honest self-assessment, because as they grow up and face hardship, they need to be able to look to themselves for strength and approval. If they can’t, they will be much more susceptible to the superficial external approval that comes their way in the form of peer pressure, bullying and the usual social jostling. As you wean them off of your feedback, turn their “Mommy, is this picture good?” or “Daddy, did I do a good job?” back on them, and ask them how they feel about their work.

3. We promise not to believe everything your child says happens at home if you promise not to believe everything your child says happens in our classrooms. Experienced teachers know that not everything children share during circle time represents an accurate reflection of what goes on in their home. When, for example, my cousin’s son told to his entire class that a robot had come to his house and removed his mommy’s lady parts, his teacher was wise enough to remain skeptical. Accordingly, when your child comes home and claims that the teacher screamed and yelled at him in front of the entire class for his low test score, try to give his teacher the benefit of the doubt until you’ve had a chance to talk to the teacher about it.

4. Your children learn and act according to what you do, not what you say. You are your child’s first and best teacher, and they learn more from your actions rather than your words. When you tell your child that it’s rude to text during conversations, yet you continue to read your email while pretending to listen to him talk about his day, you are teaching him to distrust your words and your intent, while reinforcing the very behavior you seek to modify.

In the same vein, if you want to promote a behavior such as a love of learning, model that, too. Seek out new knowledge and experiences; learn something new just for the sake of learning. As teacher S.Q. wrote in an email, “Model intellectual curiosity and a visceral pleasure in learning. Not just the brainy stuff, but anything of interest (how to clean spark plugs, what kinds of wood work best on a wood lathe, what the fox says). Show your own interest in learning by reading, thinking aloud, wondering aloud.”

5. Teach your children that mistakes aren’t signs of weakness but a vital part of growth and learning. Let your children see you fail, admit to your mistakes, and talk openly about how you have learned from those mistakes. As teacher K.M. wrote in an email, “Failure is part of the process. It’s what they do after they fail that matters. If you pick them up after their every failure, they learn nothing about how to begin again.”

Jessica Lahey is an educator, writer and speaker. She writes about parenting and education for The New York Times, The Atlantic, Vermont Public Radio and her own blog, Coming of Age in the Middle. Her book, “The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed,” will be published by HarperCollins in 2015.



4/28/2016 6:30 pm – 07:30 pm

Presentation: Raising A Child With ADHD: A Candid & Open Discussion: This wonderful presentation will look at ADHD from a strength based perspective and will focus on: the old versus the new understanding of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); the many roles that parent(s) of children with ADHD assume at home, at school and in the community; parenting stress research and ADHD; and recommended support for parents. The reported myths versus the facts of ADHD will also be discussed as will one mother’s personal story.

Cynthia Keefe, PsyD, is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in conducting comprehensive psych education and AD/HD evaluations as well as providing individual, family and group therapy services and parent coaching support. Prior to joining The Southfield Center, Dr. Keefe held various training positions in both public and private settings including: Green Chimneys in Brewster, NY, Four Winds Hospital in Katonah, NY, Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, NY and Andrus (Mental Health Division) in White Plains, NY. She is experienced in numerous evidence-based treatments including cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT). Dr. Keefe received her Master’s degree in Applied Psychology from Fairfield University and her doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from Long Island University, C.W. Post.

Join other parents and community members for this evening of learning in a casual atmosphere.

*Prior to the event, there will be a 30 minute Open House at 6:00pm, for anyone who is interested!

Register Here

Event Location:
Fusion Greenwich Campus
66 Gatehouse Road,
Stamford, CT 06902