I HATE Math!

After 15 years as an educational consultant, one of the most often heard phrases that makes me cringe is, “I hate math!”.  This is generally followed by, “I’m just not a math person”.  Students from ages 6-18 say it, and it comes from both girls and boys.  Why do our students today “HATE” math so much? It doesn’t have to be this way.  I hate that they hate math!

Students hate math for three reasons: 1) They are intimidated by math.  2) No one has taken the time to help build their self-confidence in this subject.  3) Math is processed very differently by male and female brains which can account for a lack of conceptual understanding.

While all of these factors carry equal weight, #1 is the frontrunner for most students, and #2 rings true for parents .  Here are some tips for overcoming excuses #1 and #2.

  1. Parents, even if you are intimidated by math and do not feel it is a strength, try to avoid phrases like, “I too am not a math person”, “It’s in the genes to not be good at math”,  or, “Don’t worry, you will never use Algebra/Geometry/fractions/etc. in real life—just get through it”.  The more value you place on mastering math, the less of an out your child has to be intimidated by it. Stop providing him/her with excuses!
  2. The fundamental math years occur between Grades 3-6, so do not let any conceptual gaps slide during these years.  If summer school or math tutoring can fill in those gaps and solidify the math foundation, DO IT during these years.  How do you know there are math gaps? Low grades, low standardized test scores in math, and teacher input are all valuable barometers.
  3. Find your student a math champion and advocate.  Do not expect your student’s teacher to provide the needed extra math time.  They are generally too overwhelmed and busy with 30+ students.  Find a tutor, mentor, family member, etc. who can be your student’s “go-to” math helper.
  4. Make math real and include it in your daily family life.  Cooking, shopping, negotiating allowances, making investments, calculating percent increases in gas prices, etc. all present learning opportunities for real life math.  Involve your student in these activities.
  5. Have a “no calculator” zone. Put down the iPhone when calculating a tip at dinner—calculate it yourself and with your child.  Students learn by watching you, so every time you look for a way out of doing the math, you are teaching them to do the same.  Math lazy parents breed math lazy students.

In the end, loving or hating math is a nurture AND nature issue (the nature part is TBD in another blog).  We need to fix the nurture side ASAP.  Did you know that the three most burgeoning career fields for this generation of kids are: technology, science, and entrepreneurship?  All of which include math.  Nope, hating math in today’s world is just not an option.

- By Kelly Trotter King


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4 Commentsclick here to leave a comment

  • wow, this is really interesting. Seriously, I hear so many people our age talk about how they’re so bad at numbers. People are so afraid of numbers, seriously how often are you at dinner and no one wants to figure out how to do the math on the bill for a big group? It really carries over into adulthood if it’s not caught early I think. Can’t wait to read more!

    • Kathryn, I couldn’t agree more! I think adults who feel math insecure now, were once kids who fell into excuses #1 & #2. I think we really need to focus on these younger years for students and work diligently at making them math confident and savvy, vs. fearful and reticent. Thank you so much for the comment!

  • I wish I were good at math but it was a struggle in high school and it’s STILL a struggle now that I’m in college.

    • Magnifique100, it’s never too late! I know several very smart and successful adults who did not become math confident and savvy until well after college. Our brains are never too old to be retrained and retaught; it just takes practice and persistence. Take a math refresher course, turn off the iPhone when calculating the tip at dinner, or pick up a book that reviews the fundamentals of math. All of these little things can bring a renewed sense of confidence in your math ability!


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