Math anxiety the unnecessary fear that can prevent your child achieving their full potential

Jun 2, 2022 | Red Deer

The only way to learn math is to do math. The only way to overcome math anxiety is to face it - but be gentle. Your child needs to understand the basics first.


I know a very nice lady whose kids never had fish at home because she didn’t allow them. Why? When she was a kid herself, she had a bad experience when a fish bone stuck in her throat. But when her kids were teens and adults, naturally they wanted to eat fish – and every time they ate fish, their mom always (and I mean always!) warned them and reminded them of her traumatic experience.  

Another story. I joined a parenting Facebook group – One parent posted a pic of her with a t-shirt saying “5 out of 4 people are bad at math” and other parents/members of the group laughed and were onboard that math was hard. Hmm .. I understand where this “social attitude” came from .. but I hope you agree that that’s not a message that you want to transmit to your child?

Just like with any “unhealthy” anxiety i.e. a feeling of fear of something that is actually good for you (like fish or math), you shouldn’t pass on that anxiety to your child. Research suggests that one of the most common reasons why a chid fails in math is math anxiety (the other one is dyscalculia). This is so unfortunate because actually about 80% of children with high math anxiety have the potential to perform at average or above average level.   

A child showing signs of math anxiety should not be ignored. Saying something like “it’s ok if you can't do math, I was scared of it too” wouldn’t help. That is like saying that your child’s ability is set in stone and cannot be improved. Intervention as early as possible is important to reduce the long-term effects of math anxiety. It is not exaggerating to say that feeling of being a failure at math can affect a child’s self-worth for years to come. Out of my personal experience, I noticed that my son was having an issue with self confidence; his math grade was not good and not as good as his twin. After some interventions, his math grade jumped and his confidence was back. Just one thing. His number sense would have been sharper if only there was Mathnasium at that time. 😊


How to overcome math anxiety?

To reduce any anxiety or phobia is to face it. Avoiding it only prevent your child from moving forward. The very first step is believing in the growth mindset. As a parent, you had a fear of math? Fine. Mais c’est passé. You won’t face a math exam anymore. But don’t make your child repeat your bad experience. Give positive messaging. Instill the belief in them that their ability can change and improve over time with effort and practice. Don’t we want our children to reject negative messages like racism, negative body image, unhealthy food, etc.? Let’s treat math anxiety the same way.

Yes, face it – but be gentle. Your child needs to understand the basics first. If they cannot solve algebra equations, can they do fractions? Or integer? Maybe that’s the problem; it’s not because they don’t understand what steps to solve equations but perhaps it’s because they are not skilled in fractions. If they are not skilled in fractions, is it possible because they are not fluent in multiplication? You see, it’s very essential to master the basics, otherwise you’re just like applying duct tape to stop the leak on the ceiling without fixing the roof. Math builds on itself. It’s never too late to go back to basic to permanently fix their math skills.  

You can find an expert who can do a comprehensive assessment to find where exactly the gaps are. After finding what are the concepts that needed to work on, doing lots of practice is essential because math is all about practice.

Don’t let math anxiety prevent your high ability child to perform at their best.

By the way, the very nice lady who hated fish was my mother-in-law; and I loved her to pieces 😊


Mathnasium of Red Deer is your neighbourhood’s math-only learning centre, and we are here to help your child. Our centre director, Riwan, and the whole team, would be happy to meet you! We are conveniently located in the shopping destination area in Red Deer: 5250 22nd St, Unit 30 B – at the Gaetz Avenue Crossing shopping centre, in the same area as Chapters Indigo/Starbucks, Michael Arts, Petland and Ashley, and the phone number is 403-872 MATH (6284). 

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