10 Tips to Overcome the Fear of Maths

Does your child have an aversion towards Maths? Or maybe, he fears it? Worry not! Here are ten quick tips to help your child overcome his fear of Maths.

By Dr Priscilla J S Selvaraj

10 Tips to Overcome the Fear of Maths


The bogeyman, the wicked witch, Jack the Ripper – all rolled into one; that is what mathematics is to some children. No wonder, then, that it has generated so much fear in some children, and even adults. It finds itself in the long list of phobias and goes by the name ‘mathophobia’, which can be defined as a feeling of fear, tension and anxiety about one’s ability to do maths, and thus interferes with one’s performance in maths. So, how can you help your child who is gripped with this fear? “Always do what you are afraid to do,” said the American philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson. And, that is exactly what you should encourage your child to do – not to shy away from maths but embrace it. Here are ten tips, based on inputs from Dr Robinson Thamburaj, Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics, Madras Christian College, to help your child overcome mathophobia.

  1. Be positive: “I’m not good in maths; I am stupid.” Such thoughts can hurt your child’s self-esteem and confidence. Help your child understand that everyone has different abilities and he should be proud of his other accomplishments. Some extra effort from him and a little additional help will certainly help him do well in maths. Such a positive outlook will boost his confidence and help him focus and perform better.
  2. Face it squarely: Sit with your child and discuss her fear of maths. Help your child acknowledge the fact that she may not be enjoying the same comfort level with maths as she does with other subjects. Acceptance is always the first step towards tackling any problem.
  3. Encourage practice: Practice always helps improve your child’s mathematical skills. Therefore, encourage your child to work out problems every day. Set aside a particular time for this practice. Investing in extra time and effort will bring about a great change in both attitude and performance. If necessary, hire a special tutor to provide extra coaching for your child.
  4. Make maths simple and fun: Simplify the learning method. Even complicated problems can be made easy by breaking them down into smaller, simpler steps. Involve your child in maths games, puzzles and apps to make maths an enjoyable experience.
  5. Perceive maths as a creative subject: The general notion is that maths is not creative. Encourage your child to experiment with different ways of solving a problem. Introduce her to open-ended problems such as figuring out how many ways you can make a ‘5’ by using the numbers 0 through 9 and ‘+’ and ‘-’ operations. Activity-based maths learning involving paper-folding and dartboard will also ensure creativity.
  6. Apply maths in daily life: Try to integrate maths into your child’s daily life. This will make maths real and meaningful to her. When you go shopping, let your child pay for the purchases and collect the change. Reinforce the concept of fractions through slicing and sharing pizza. Cook together and get your child to measure portions for the recipe. Skip count while playing rope. Teach geometrical properties while drawing traditional patterns of Kolam or Rangoli. Such hands-on activities will ensure experiential learning.
  7. Encourage peer learning: Pair-work and group-work to solve maths problems can be effective ways of reinforcing concepts learnt.
  8. Find out the root cause: It is essential to identify the root cause of your child’s fear of maths. Could it be that his early foundation in maths was weak? Or, were his teachers not too enthusiastic about the subject? Was the method of teaching dull and uninteresting, based on formulae and procedures without explanation of underlying concepts? Sometimes it just may be a fear of tests that causes mathophobia. So try not to place too much emphasis on tests. Also, avoid timed tests, as a focus on speed only adds to the anxiety and tension.
  9. Give good reasons to study maths: Help your child understand that for filing income tax returns or managing home budgets, he will need the help of numbers. A large percentage of tomorrow’s jobs will require some maths. A strong foundation in maths will help develop both logical thinking and problem-solving skills. Such motivation will lead to positive results.
  10. Set an example: A parent’s attitude towards maths tends to reflect in the child’s outlook too. If you, as a parent, had a negative experience with maths, avoid making statements like, “Maths is so hard,” or “I hate maths.” Instead encourage your child by saying things like, “Maths was difficult for me because I didn’t get the right kind of support. Today, there are so many good resources online, fun activities and videos, which can help us both get better at maths.”