The emotions experienced whilst learning mathematics at home

Janet Goodall, Sue Johnston-Wilder, Rosemary Russell

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter or section

3 Citations (SciVal)


A consideration of parental contribution to mathematical success in terms of affect is both timely and important. Many parents suffer from mathematics anxiety or helplessness; there is a risk that this anxiety or helplessness be transmitted to their children. Here we illustrate the application of the construct ‘mathematical resilience’ to developing positive parental engagement in mathematics.

The first concept on which this concept is based is that of ‘learned helplessness’, and the second, ‘mathematical resilience’ (Johnston-Wilder and Lee, 2010), which, we suggest, addresses learned helplessness in the case of mathematics. ‘Mathematical resilience’ includes the construct of (self) agency.

We give illustrative evidence of the negative experiences that can ensue when parents feel under pressure to support mathematics whilst being mathematically anxious themselves. We give accounts of how this can be addressed successfully and how it might be considered to be possible that all parents, whether mathematics anxious or not, may be capable of promoting mathematical resilience and supporting mathematics learning more effectively and safely with their children.

Parental engagement with children’s learning is a powerful lever for children’s achievement (Desforges and Abouchaar 2003, Jeynes 2005, Goodall and Vorhaus 2011, Jeynes 2012, UK Gov. 2014), but only when parents feel enabled and empowered to engage, and only when they and schools have a clear understanding of what effective engagement entails (Goodall and Vorhaus 2011). We recommend that schools recognise the possibility of transformative effects of mathematical resilience for parents as well as children, and seek to support development of this resilience within their local communities.

We also recommend that the growth model and the importance of mathematical resilience be shared with parents – this could be as part of a support programme for parenting for mathematical resilience which aims to enable parents successfully to manage their own anxiety while supporting their child’s development; based on experience, this might be as short as 3-4 sessions, and easily incorporated into schools’ other work with parents.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnderstanding Emotions in Mathematical Thinking and Learning
EditorsUlises Xolocotzin Eligio
PublisherElsevier Academic Press Inc
ISBN (Electronic)9780128024898
ISBN (Print)9780128022184
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2017


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