How to Help Your Child Overcome a Math Phobia

How to Help Your Child Overcome a Math Phobia

Math is one of those things that a lot of students struggle with. In fact, one in five U.S. adults struggle with math anxiety and that number is probably much higher for K-12 learners. When there is a disparity between learners with no obvious cause, learners who struggle quickly become discouraged. Math phobia or math anxiety is fairly well documented. And it occurs most often when students are pushed through higher levels of mathematics without solidifying fundamental concepts.

Signs Your Child is Struggling in Math

Poor grades and poor attitudes are common signs that your child is struggling to master fundamental concepts in mathematics. Recognizing these signs and taking appropriate steps to correct the underlying issue is key to overcoming the phobia. If your child frequently makes excuses to avoid participating in math class, like asking to use the restroom or forgetting pencils, it is important to recognize that your child is trying to avoid an activity that they feel is unpleasant.

If these students are pressured to perform math problems that they don’t understand, their reaction is often anger, tears, and frustration. When asked about their feelings towards math, these students tend to respond negatively. They repeat assumptions that they aren’t good at it and that it is hopeless or a waste of time.

Signs to watch for:

  • Skipping Class
  • Frequent Temper Tantrums
  • Dishonesty About Completing Homework
  • Negative Attitudes About Mathematics

How to Respond to Your Child’s Math Phobia

Avoiding the work or having a meltdown every time they are asked to do math problems isn’t acceptable. But the key to turning the attitude around isn’t strict rules and forced revision. After all, these students are struggling because they don’t understand, and practicing something incorrectly will only further complicate the situation.

Parents should respond with kindness and understanding. Begin by reiterating the importance of learning mathematics and the time commitment that should be given to mathematics revision. Then, have the student go back and revisit fundamental concepts related to the problems they are struggling with.

Most students perpetuate fear of mathematics because they continue to try problems that are too advanced for their level of learning. In almost all cases, students who struggle with math need to go back and practice math revisions on earlier skills.

As your child masters math concepts from earlier grade levels, they will build confidence and improve their outlook on mathematics.

Cater Learning Activities to Personality Styles

Teachers have used a variety of methods to cater to different learning styles for many years. Artistic children are drawn to color and like to cut out shapes. Linguistic children like to attach acronyms to concepts. Hands-on learners need manipulatives. And interpersonal learners like flashcards.

While there is no one learning style that is best for everyone, you can vary the revision activities to match your child’s preferred styles. Doing so might earn more engagement and increase learning performance.

The Bottom Line on Math Phobias

Although it is widely believed that some people are naturally good at mathematics while others are not, the real cause of math anxiety is failing to learn fundamental concepts. Patience, reassurance, and revisiting earlier concepts are the best ways for parents to help students who struggle with mathematics. Additional support in mathematics revision and supplemental tutoring can help provide wrap-around services that keep students on the right path.

About the author


Tom Bernes

Tom Bernes is the Editorial Director at The Next Hint Inc.

Prior to joining The Next Hint Inc, Tom had a hand in a number of online and print publications, including as chief copy editor and Government Technology Magazine as managing editor. He also did a stint in Sydney as group editor of RBI Australia's manufacturing group, which is when he also developed an affinity (a love, really) for cricket.

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