At Everest Education, we have met loads of students who say they hate math or are terrible at math.  Math has a wide-spread reputation for being the subject students hate.  For many students, math is not something that comes intuitively or automatically – it takes plenty of effort. It is a subject that sometimes requires students to devote lots and lots of time and energy.  Therefore, it’s not uncommon to hear “I hate math class” or “math is too hard” from students who are struggling.

But what causes so many students to dislike math, and how can you help to turn their opinions around?  What can be done to ensure more students see how fun and fulfilling it can be?

If your child is among the many students who hate math, there are ways to help.  After a few courses studying with us, we don’t often hear the complaints from students anymore. Maybe they still don’t love Math, but at least they know that Math is important, Math is relevant to their lives, and most importantly, learning Math can be so much fun.

In this article, we will help you find out why hating math is so common and how you can help your child learn to view the topic as more than just numbers and equations.

Let’s see what can be the real reason behind the hatred towards maths

1. Students haven’t mastered the basics

Yes, this is the first reason for hatred towards maths from the lower classes itself.  Learning Math works much like a stack of building blocks.  Children have to gain understanding in one area before they can effectively go on to “build upon” another area.  Without learning the basics well, they cannot understand the maths lessons in the higher classes. Our national maths curriculum is designed in a way that children have to face more complex maths problems as they get to higher classes which cannot be done without knowing the basics that they need to learn in the lower classes. 

Our first mathematical building blocks are established in primary school when we learn rules for addition and multiplication, and those first concepts comprise our foundation.  The next building blocks come in middle school when students first learn about formulas and operations.  This is when the big problem starts to appear sometime between middle school and high school because students very often move on to a new grade or new subject before they’re really ready. 

What parents can do to help:

  • Go back to basics and help your child learn their times tables by heart. This doesn’t have to mean spending hours reciting tables over and over again; there are plenty of apps, games, songs, books and interactive worksheets that make rote learning fun.
  • If you realize your child doesn’t perform well at Math in her class, even in the primary years, try to review heavily to make sure to pick up concepts they’ll need later. If needed, bring her to an extra math class, hire a tutor, or at least spend time to help her review any time you find that she struggles in math class!

2. Students can not see the relation between Math and their real-life

Some subjects relate easily to everyday life, but children often see maths as something that happens purely in the classroom.  This can make it seem a redundant and pointless exercise and something they can forget about as soon as the school bell rings.  “What’s the point of learning Algebra in the first place?”, “Do we really need to find “x” and “y” in our day-to-day lives?”, “We just need to master the basic operations to buy food at the grocery store, don’t we?”, “When will I ever use Trigonometry anyway?”… If parents and teachers can not answer these questions, it is discouraging to children who wonder why we learn Math if it is not useful for life.

In other subjects like science, topics can be taught in a storytelling way that creates a space for the child to get into the topic with her own imaginations and dreams regarding the topic, which makes the subject more interesting for the child to understand, rather than by hearting it.  But in the case of Math, there are no stories for the teachers to share with the students, there are only some formulas, theorems, and more complex mathematical procedures.

At Everest Education, our teachers always give a lot of thought to lesson planning to develop not just skill but also mathematical attitude.  In short, make mathematics an important and valued part of classroom life.  If your child understands how maths applies to real life, they’ll stop seeing it as a useless, irrelevant subject. 

What parents can do to help:

  • Connect Math to the real-life scenarios: There’s no shortage of opportunities to show your child how numbers relate to real life.  Parents can take advantage of everyday examples, like working out how to stack the tins in the kitchen cupboard or how long it’s going to take you to drive to a friend’s house, helps put Math into context for your child and shows them how important it is in our lives.   If you have any relatives or friends who work with numbers for their career, ask them to talk to your child about their job the next time they visit.  It’s harder for your child to dismiss Math as boring and irrelevant if they appreciate the doors it could open in their future career, from video game development to fashion design.
  • To really make it sink in, tap into your child’s interests: for example, if they love football, show them how to work out statistics like how many points their team needs for promotion, or if they’re passionate about baking, use making a cake to explore mathematical concepts like weighing, measuring and calculating cooking times.  You can also point out how math plays a part in everyday life like when totaling up groceries and telling time.

> Explore some super fun math activities that help your kids develop a strong foundation in understanding math and enhance their interest in learning here: https://blog.e2.com.vn/playful-math-activities-for-your-primary-kids/

3. Students don’t have good memorization skills

Most of the students have memory problems affecting their studies.  But mainly Math is the one subject giving more headaches for students as they need to recollect the equations, theorems, graphs, exponential, calculus, logarithms, sequences, and many more which can be hard for children to memorize.  Also in solving the problem, there can be different ways, but the child needs to remember the way she was taught by the teacher in class to get the full marks. Each step included in solving the problem needs to be written in the answer sheet to impress the teacher.

Many students who struggle with math struggle with memorizing all the rules and equations involved.  However, in reality, memorization is only one part of learning math.  Jo Boaler, Professor of Mathematics Education at Stanford University, and author of The Elephant in the Classroom: Helping Children Learn and Love Maths explains: “Unfortunately, in most schools, Math is taught as a closed subject with right and wrong answers, and children are drilled that it’s just the formal methods they have to remember.  But actually, Math is an open, creative, and flexible subject so as a parent you can try and give them a different experience at home.”

What parents can do to help:

  • Avoid the use of memorization as much as possible (i.e., filling their minds with facts) because memorizing is boring.  Instead, teach them how to figure out or discover their own answers to the equations.
  • Teach kids how to focus on problem solving: Instead of simply memorizing, students should concentrate on understanding how and why these formulas work.  Students who rely on memorization when learning math aren’t able to apply their knowledge and tend to become discouraged when asked to think outside of the box.
  • In your child’s spare time, offer him or her number-based brain teasers that focus on building problem-solving skills rather than memorization. These can be a fun way to get your child excited about math.

4. Learning Math requires a lot of mistakes

In order to learn, math requires making a lot of mistakes.  Students with math anxiety don’t simply dislike math – for them, math causes debilitating feelings of fear and failure that hurt their ability to perform.  The pressure and lack of confidence these students feel when faced with math cause their brain to freeze and forget even the things they do know.  Students have to repeat the same types of questions over and over again until they get the right answers – and it can get frustrating.  Repetitively getting wrong answers can take a toll on one’s confidence, leading them to shy away from the subject.

What parents can do to help:

  • Show your child that making mistakes is part of learning: It’s important that children don’t avoid tasks that are challenging and require hard work.  Help your child understand that the harder it is to get an answer right, the more fulfilling it will be when he or she eventually solves it.  If your child gets discouraged while learning math, remind her that making mistakes is just part of the process of learning.  This valuable lesson applies both in the classroom and to life as a whole.
  • Change the way we talk about maths ourselves.  Stop saying that you ‘can’t do it,’ and agreeing with your child that it’s boring; if you’re helping with homework and there’s something you’re not sure about, make a point of exploring the concept with your child and educating yourself, rather than ‘leaving it to Daddy’ or her teacher.
  • Celebrate your child’s progress: When your child finishes a unit, go back through the unit with your child, and talk about the new skills your child has mastered.  When you’re working on math facts, make a chart of the facts your child needs to learn and have her cross them the ones that she has down pat.  And when your child accomplishes something especially hard, like mastering the subtraction facts or long division, do something fun to celebrate!

5. Learning pace is not personalized

Solving Math is like walking on a tightrope.  It’s a difficult subject.  One quick lesson in the classroom will not make every child learn its concepts.  Some children take time and go slow. Maths is a fear because we expect all kids to understand it at the first go.

At Everest, we have seen that almost any child can excel at math –  given they have time to master it.  The time will vary from student to student.   Some students only need a couple of days to master adding fives, while others will struggle for several weeks.  But if we persevere with the practice, the student will get it!  Because of that, rather than finishing the portions in time, teachers should be more concerned for the students getting a better understanding of the topic they teach.  But practically it never happens and hence parents have to arrange special tuitions for the students and unfortunately in tuitions also the same thing happens because when the classes are crowded, the teachers are not able to give special attention to each child.

What parents can do to help:

  • Utilize online math games and software often to customize the learning path that fits your kids.  We always have a list of favorite math sites or programs to recommend to our students, and our blended learning model allows us to integrate offline and online learning to take care of the special needs of every student.  Since students today are so technologically savvy, utilize their strength in the tech realm, and include math learning in their online repertoire. 

>> Check out some useful websites that teach Math, recommended by Everest teachers: https://blog.e2.com.vn/bring-math-to-your-bedtime-stories/

Math is not the enemy of the students, but the way of teaching, the order of teaching, the attitude of the teachers and parents matters the most.  Every child possesses the ability to grasp and score better marks in maths if taught and nurtured in the right way.  We hope that by applying these tips, parents can make Math a more satisfying experience for your child  – as this is the base of all subjects and needs to be applied in every instance of our daily life.

Reference:
http://schoolessons.com/blog/10/why-your-child-hate-maths-top-5-reasons/#.X4PeLtAza70
https://www.theschoolrun.com/5-reasons-kids-hate-maths
https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/promoting-empathy-your-teen/201806/what-do-when-your-child-hates-math

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