It is not uncommon for kids to list math as one of their least favorite subjects. For many students, a lack of confidence about their skills and abilities in this area are cause for fear and anxiety. While there may be a number of potential causes, such as ineffective instruction, lack of practice, underlying disability, etc., there are ways to address it so that students develop a healthier and more positive relationship with math. Parents and teachers can turn to simple and effective strategies that will provide students with just the right amount of support and encouragement to get them on their way to a better math experience. 

Here are 6 ways you can help your student overcome their fear of math.

  1. Talk to your kids about their experience with math. What do they like and not like about it? What are their biggest fears or concerns? Taking the time to understand your child’s specific relationship with math will help you tailor your approach and better support them. Remember to have patience as you engage in conversations, as your child may not be ready to share all of this information at once. One way to approach this is through observation. Take note of any concepts that may cause negative reactions and pay attention to patterns. This will help you to identify any pain points that you can further research. When you have some clarity about where the struggles lie, you will be better equipped to support your child. 
  2. Help them understand that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to math. Just because they may not be as strong in math as their friends or siblings doesn’t mean they can’t succeed. It is important to help your child build math confidence by frequently offering praise, setting goals, finding the value in mistakes, and encouraging persistence and independent problem-solving. By helping them to shift their focus on their strengths rather than weaknesses, your student will develop a healthier perspective about their abilities. 
  3. Break down big goals into smaller, more manageable steps. If your child is feeling overwhelmed by an upcoming math test, help them create a study plan that breaks the material down into smaller chunks. This will make the task feel less daunting and help them to build confidence. Remind your child of the importance of mastering foundational skills before attempting to tackle additional concepts. Offer frequent reminders as needed.
  4. Encourage practice, but don’t push too hard. It’s important to encourage your child to practice their math skills, but it’s also important not to put too much pressure on them. If they’re feeling stressed or anxious about math, it will only make things worse. As much as possible, encourage your child to master mathematics in everyday life. For example, involve them with real-world situations such as calculating costs when shopping and measuring areas around the house. All of this extra exposure and practice will build your child’s confidence as well as increase their math awareness.
  5. Seek out extra help if needed. If your child is struggling with math despite your best efforts, it may be time to seek out professional help. A tutor or teacher can provide the one-on-one attention and support that your child needs to overcome their fear of math. Oftentimes, this support will begin with a useful math skills assessment to determine specific areas of difficulty. Once a student receives the proper support, they will display a greater willingness to engage in math. Not surprisingly, many parents have found that their children have had a much better experience and response when working with someone other than themselves. As your child begins to make sense of concepts, their resistance will be replaced with interest and engagement
  6. Incorporate the use of games. One effective method to help your child look at math more positively is to use games. Games can help to make learning fun and allow children to approach math with a sense of excitement and curiosity. By playing games that focus on concepts like counting and patterns, children can gradually develop confidence in their abilities and begin to see math as a fun challenge instead of a daunting task. With the right approach, even the most math resistant child can develop a healthy relationship with this subject.

Many parents find that their children are afraid of math. They may have had a bad experience in school, or they may have been told that they’re not “good” at math. As a result, they may avoid doing math altogether. Thankfully, there are several things that you can do to help your child overcome their fear and dislike of math. Keep in mind the importance of being supportive and understanding. As mentioned earlier, remind your child that everyone learns at their own pace and that there is no shame in seeking help. Seek out ways to try to find fun and interactive ways to help them learn. There are many great websites and apps that make learning math fun as well as everyday real world opportunities. Encourage them to persevere when they encounter difficult problems and to adopt an ‘I can’ attitude. Let them know that it’s okay to make mistakes and that practice will eventually lead to success. 

As a parent, it can be distressing to watch your child struggle in their learning. These emotions can sometimes turn to frustration, which only makes the situation more difficult. With time and practice, however, there is hope for your student to improve their math skills and develop a higher level of confidence. Keep in mind that each student learns at their own pace and in their own unique way. If one thing doesn’t seem to be working, move ahead to the next strategy in order to maintain consistency and flow. A little patience and support will go a long way in helping your student to become a more confident mathematician. You may even find that after some time and consistent practice, your child learns to embrace their ability to solve problems!