What Are Your Thoughts on This Fearful Parents Video?

Wil showed up at the Math Shack this morning talking about a commercial he saw on TV last night. “Wow, this is what parents are up against!” he said shaking his head.

Check it out for yourself:

We’ve been talking about it all morning. Before we post our thoughts, we’d love to have yours.

  1. What’s the intended message?
  2. What’s the real or perceived message?
  3. How does it affect your view on math as a parent?

Share your opinion in the comments and let others know via twitter.



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10 Responses to What Are Your Thoughts on This Fearful Parents Video?

  1. intended msg: You need Sylvan to save you from your own inadequacy/fear.

    perceived msg: Math is scary and impractical/hard. You can’t do it without a professional.

    my perception: I chuckled. A lot of people feel like the lady in the commercial. Unfortunately, like so many other ‘tasks’ in modern society (from cleaning house to fixing car to caring for/educating children) we rely on (i.e. pay) others who are presumably more qualified (i.e. willing) to do these everyday tasks instead of becoming more self-sufficient and knowledgable ourselves. This has created an entire economy fueled by fear (sometimes ignorance) and the sheer complexity of our lives. A simple life is more manageable.

    • So true. We “outsource” the things we think we can’t or don’t want to do because we just don’t have time or we really believe we don’t ahve the ability.

      To make a speculative leap, this display of helplessness (if you want to go that far) could rub off on the next generation. And we wonder why kiddos are so math anxious!

      We recently posted an article on how you can create an anxiety safe learning environment.

  2. Here’s what comes to mind when I watch this: what if the boy in the commercial said “Mom, could you help me read this paragraph?”. Why is it not ok to admit publicly (and even privately) that “I’m just not that good at reading”, but it’s ok to say “I’m just not that good at math”? Besides, why Mom and not Dad in this commercial (although maybe Sylvan does have another version of this, featuring a girl and her father).

    • Yelena

      Bon and I talk from time to time about how being “bad at math” is en vogue, and almost the cool thing to be. How unfortunate. It starts with the adults (including myself) setting the example.

      Thanks, Yelena.

  3. What’s the intended message?
    We sell the math help you can’t give.
    What’s the real or perceived message?
    Parents can’t help their children with maths, they need professional help.
    How does it affect your view on math as a parent?
    Well, I’m a math person. And in teaching. And a parent. I know that I can’t help my boy learn greek, so if he needs extra help there, I would refer him to his TEACHER. It makes me mad that some company would exploit a parent’s feelings of inadequacy to sell them something their child should be getting at school. I always thought schools were for teaching kids, helping them learn stuff. Did I misunderstand something here?

    • Eva

      I feel your frustration! It seems the new thing for teachers to do (and unfortunately it is due to admin, policy, and resource pressures) is to teach to the test. “Get ’em in there, show them exactly how to do what they’re going to see on the STAAR, and keep ’em movin’! Oh, and here are your 5 more students this year and no raise.”

      Learning in the way of conceptual understanding seems to have taken a back seat because of this perfect storm.

      Let’s keep the conversation going as to how we can affect a positive change. One thing we can do at home is avoiding the “I can’t do math” statements at home and coming up with POSITIVE things about math.

      Thanks much!

  4. My opinion is that Sylvan’s intent is to promote and sell a professional service they provide to those who may benefit from it. No school system I am aware of provides concentration of one subject to its students. We (adults) can only be exploited if we allow it to happen. I would consider the staff at Sylvan (or other learning centers)to be Teachers. Television commercials are notoriously silly in order to get our attention away from our daily routines and get us to listen. Math and reading are not the same. Once we have learned to read, we can always read, even if we take a 10 year break, we can pick right back up, not so with math. A parent’s (adult) math ability depends on their chosen professions or hobbies, and the complexity of math abilities required to perform their daily tasks. If there is any innuendo here, it would be that the parent is depicted as not having mastered the stage of math their child is now in, hence the anxiousness of the mother character. One stereotype: A long standing belief that boys are “better” at math than girls. Teachers believe it, parents believe it, so it just a learned behavior, more than a fact. My youngest son (age 28) is no better in math than I am. The real message is that Sylvan does this every day, and does it well. Perception is subjective so I can’t comment. I know how to wash my car, but there are others who can do it faster and better, and I can concentrate on what I do well.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Vikki. You have so many good points. For me, if they were to market their services like you said in your last line, it would be a good promotion of a good product.

      Indeed, if you can outsource something, great. Parents give love and attention to their kids through lots of ways, so having someone else help your child – in math or in French – is fine.

      Regarding reading – I don’t think you can pick reading back up after a 10 year break. Since we read all the time, the only comparison that we can make to this is reading in a different language. I know lots of people who were fluent in a second language and then stopped using it. They mostly lose it – like many people with “schoolbook math.”

      Thanks again, Vikki – love having you here!

  5. Lots of marketing promotes fear in the intended audience. Is that fear real? For some parents, definitely. Is it being exaggerated? I think that depends on the parent. Some folks really do HATE math.

    Now, should parents have the message “You are no good at math – admit it, and let us take over” pushed at them? No, but it is a message that will work on some parents.

    Some parents need to be encouraged to take a deep breath and help their kids with math, and some probably should admit they don’t get it, and seek help.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Peter.

      That’s the creepy thing, to me – that this message will work on some parents. AND that the message isn’t found offensive by all other parents.

      Makes me sad, mad and powered up.

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