If your child tells you they feel as if they are terrible at math, you can take advantage of the situation to change their mind. Even when they think math is challenging or stressful, you can respond in such a way that your child ends up feeling confident enough to try again. You can even help them feel more optimistic about it.

Studies have shown that attitude and a little enthusiasm can go a long way in helping your children have the confidence they need to learn math. So you have to act immediately anytime you hear your child say, “I’m terrible at math.” Inspire your children to trust in their math ability and help them see it as a subject they can be good at. When your child tells you that they think they are bad at math, consider giving one the following responses:

Response #1:
"MATH CAN BE HARD... BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN YOU ARE BAD AT IT!"

A mother motivating her daughter to do her best on multipication homework.

Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to think that being good at math means “getting it” right away. In reality, learning math (and becoming good at it) takes time and effort. Math is a skill, and just like any skill, it can be learned and improved. It’s vital that your children realize this and it’s your job to enlighten them. Data shows that people who believe that they can grow their intellect and improve their abilities by practicing will always perform better than those who don’t.

Notice how you react when it comes to your children’s successes and achievements. What do you pay attention to about how they behave or how they approach things? Which actions do you praise and acknowledge? Do you commend them for learning something quicker than the others? Or do you focus on the things they work hard to master and achieve?

There’s nothing wrong with complimenting your child for being ‘smart’ or ‘quick to learn’. However, doing it often might have the opposite effect to what you were hoping for. Instead, try to compliment them on things they put a genuine effort into doing. Highlight the value of practicing to improve their ability and sticking to it even when it gets tough, rather than focusing on inherent talent. Praise your child’s commitment, work ethic, and perseverance as they work on a challenging assignment to inspire them to feel okay with making mistakes and taking on difficult tasks.

Response #2:
"Math is more than just formulas and equations."

A baker using measurements to prepare food.

If you want to engage your child’s brain when it comes to math, you have to connect the subject to their daily lives as well. Encourage them to play games that use math as a fun and unique way to see the world. Rather than bore them with equations and battering them with confusing math jargon, relate math ideas to the things they love, their hobbies and interests – games, arts and crafts, toys, and other real-life things they’re passionate about. Focus on applying math to things that they regularly interact with in their life, things they’re excited about.

It’s likely that your child already loves many activities that include math principles. Point out whenever they feel good about doing something that’s related to math, whether that’s cooking, planning a road trip, or playing with their friends. Here are some examples:

  • “How can you be bad at math when you’re so good at solving these puzzles?”
  • “You’re so good at helping me measure ingredients when I cook!”
  • “How did you calculate when to throw that ball? You really are good at math, aren’t you?”

Keep note of all your child’s small victories and relate them to math. Show them how they’re using math in real life doing ordinary things, and they just don’t realize it!

RESPONSE #3:
"Come on, let's see if we can figure this out together."

A father helping his son with his math homework.

When children moan and complain about math, they’re likely feeling stuck, making them feel hopeless and frustrated. Listen closely to what your child has to say, acknowledge their feelings, and provide encouragement and motivation.

You can say something like, “It’s true that math can be hard, but don’t worry, we’ll figure it out. Let’s look at what’s causing you problems, shall we?”

This lets them know that it’s okay to feel frustrated and annoyed and that sometimes, all we need is a little push in the right direction. Help them realize that it may be hard now, but eventually, they’ll be able to figure it out. Support your child by easing their worries and helping them figure out difficult problems.

Another way to help your child is to speak with their teacher about the dynamics of doing math in class. If your child needs more guidance, find out how to provide that. There may be local school services, professional tutors, or even another student who can help them learn complicated math concepts and overcome their anxieties.

Don't say: "I'm also bad at math."

Sadly, many adults also claim that they’re “not a math person”. Research suggests that children actually pick up and adopt this fixed mindset about math from their parents, adversely affecting how they approach the subject in school and in their life. Understanding complex math problems can be a challenge for everyone, but for those with math anxiety, even more so.

Saying you’re not good at math will bring your child’s confidence down even lower, setting them up for failure when they starts to think that there’s nothing they can do about it. You’re basically saying that it’s in their genes to be bad at math. Instead, show optimism and confidence. Show your child that math can be fun and interesting to learn. In time, your child will start to believe you. Watch and see!

When your child tells you they are bad at math, seize the opportunity to change their mind about it! Mindset and motivation will go a long way toward giving your children the confidence they need to overcome challenges. Learning math (and being good at it) requires time and commitment, but like any other skill, it can be practiced and mastered.

Learn more about how we can help your child with math by clicking here.

Original Publish Date: April 24, 2021
Updated on February 14, 2022

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