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UWinnipeg professor co-authors new children’s book that tackles math anxiety

Dr. Sheri-Lynn Skwarchuk holding her co-authored book Peyton & Charlie Challenge Math.

UWinnipeg Professor Dr. Sheri-Lynn Skwarchuk co-authored the new children’s book ‘Peyton & Charlie Challenge Math.’

Does math make you nervous?
Feel yucky inside?
When you hear that it’s “math time,”
Do you just want to hide?

Not only would I recommend these strategies for students who really struggle with math anxiety, I also recommend these strategies for kids who struggle with anxiety in general.

Dr. Sheri-Lynn Skwarchuk

University of Winnipeg Professor Dr. Sheri-Lynn Skwarchuk and University of Ottawa Associate Professor Dr. Erin Maloney are tackling math anxiety in their new children’s book Peyton & Charlie Challenge Math.

As a school psychologist, Skwarchuk says she’s given talks with teachers about math anxiety, as well as general anxiety, and hopes this book can make a real difference.

“The strategies in this book are strategies we’re trying to get students to use,” she said. “Not only would I recommend these strategies for students who really struggle with math anxiety, I also recommend these strategies for kids who struggle with anxiety in general.”

The goal is to have children in elementary school read the book, because the first evidence of math anxiety is seen as early as Grade 1. But this book is not just for students.

Skwarchuk says it’s also a beneficial read for parents and educators, as they can learn about important concepts such as socio-emotional learning, anxiety-reduction strategies, and the value of persevering through challenging situations.

“As you get a bit older and problems get harder, it morphs into bigger problems,” Skwarchuk explained. “By grade seven, eight, or nine, if you haven’t got that anxiety under control, it starts to affect your performance.”

Two pages from 'Peyton & Charlie Challenge Math'

Two pages from ‘Peyton & Charlie Challenge Math’

In the book, Peyton is anxious about performing math and working with numbers, while Charlie is confident and fearless when tackling math problems. Together, this duo makes the perfect pair.  

Charlie provides Peyton with the skills and strategies needed to overcome his anxiety about math and encourages him not to shy away from the wonderful field of mathematics. Peyton helps demonstrate that with the right tools, anyone can succeed.

Rhymes are incorporated throughout the book based on Maloney’s experiences with her two daughters.

“This book is written in a rhyme format, so you can feel kind of happy when you’re reading the story,” Skwarchuk said. “It was also intentional that the little girl was the one helping the boy, because there’s a lot of girls who have math anxiety and we want to highlight that math isn’t just for boys.”

The book is accessible, she added, noting the text is intentionally written in a sans serif font to support those with reading difficulties and also placed on a black background to support learners with low vision. Available on Amazon, no author profits are made off the book, so it’s affordable for schools and families.

Maloney and Skwarchuk will be delivering two presentations on math anxiety later this week.

The first, Math Anxiety: What It Is, Where It Comes From, and What We Can Do To Help, is taking place Thursday, January 19 from 6:45 to 8:00 p.m. at the Louis Riel School Division Board Office.

The second, Math Anxiety, Math Achievement, and Mathematical Well-Being, is taking place Friday, January 20 in Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m.

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