“When a child says he or she hates math, it is usually a sign of frustration and confusion,” says Frances R. Spielhagen, author The Algebra Solution to Mathematics Reform. “It is important to validate what the child is saying, with encouragement like, ‘Yes, math can sometimes be difficult, but let’s see what, in particular, is giving you trouble.’ This type of support tells the child that the feelings of frustration are real but can be overcome.” Spielhagen suggests a parent can help get their child to be more math-confident by taking a number of approaches:

“Talk to your child’s teacher to determine the dynamics that are happening in the classroom. If your child needs additional help, determine how to provide that help, at home, through local school resources, professional tutors, and even a bright high school student looking to earn some extra cash or service hours.

“Never forget that parents are the first teachers of their children. It is important to incorporate mathematical thinking in daily interactions, using old standards like figuring out fractions when sharing a pizza, or calculating how many seconds (not minutes) it will take for the popcorn to pop in the microwave. Make math fun. We are convinced that we should read to our children everyday — why not add mathematical thinking and playing with numbers into the mix?

“When a child expresses frustration and characterizes himself as a failure, the two most important words a parent can say is ‘yet’ and ‘might. ‘You are having difficulty with that now and can’t do it yet. What might we do to help this situation?’ This tells the child you believe that he or she can improve, with effort, and you will provide the support needed.”


Here’s how 4 other parenting experts say to respond…


Erica Reischer
Instead of focusing on whether they’re “good” or “bad” at something, help kids see the value of hard work, says parent coach and psychologist Erica Reischer. Format: Video (1:41)

Deborah Tillman
America’s Supernanny Deborah Tillman says that when a child is struggling with math — or any subject — parents need to step in quickly to help. Here’s how. Format: Video (1:20)

Sheila Tobias
The author of the seminal book on math phobia, Overcoming Math Anxiety, says that every child — save a rare few — can succeed at math. Here’s how. Format: Article

Kalid Azad
Math whiz Kalid Azad says the best response to this lament is to help kids discover math in the world around them. Format: Article

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