Overcome Kids' Math Phobia and Anxiety to Eliminate Frustration in Learning Math

Math phobia and anxiety may be the underlying cause for kids having difficulty learning math.

Children may find many challenges in the process of learning and understanding mathematical concepts. Every individual child learns at her own pace. Some kids take time to totally acquire the concepts. However, some kids may develop a fear of math.

In order to help children overcome the frustration of learning math, we need to deepen the understanding of HOW a math phobia kid feels. I can fully comprehend this fearful feeling – I had a fear for math during my school days.
math phobia - child fearful of math

How Does a Child Feel Fearful about Math?

  • Feel anxious and nervous about math tests and exams. The mind will turn blank and unable to concentrate to work on math tests.
  • There is a mindset that "I cannot do it". Always feel lack of self-confidence when tackling math questions and problems.
  • Frustrated over how to score or at least get a pass for math. Is the teacher looking for the process of how to derive the answer? Do I get marks for the right process but wrong answers and vice versa?
  • Blindly follows the process or formula of mathematical concepts. Does not understand why sometimes the formula does not work.
  • Have a misconception that girls are not good in math versus boys.
Such feeling can prolong into adulthood. It hinders the learning and progress in mathematics. The child may have to struggle to cope with this weakness throughout her education path if there is no support given or help rendered.

Is Math Phobia a Learning Disability?

In retrospective, I do not believe it is a learning disability. The fear of math is due to lack of understanding of SOME mathematics fundamental concepts. It does not affect the learning of ALL mathematical concepts and facts. There are some math topics the child can still excel. Each individual is different so the topics which post a challenge may differ too.

Can the Fear of Math Affects Learning of other Subjects?

To a certain extent, math anxiety and phobia can affect the learning of other subjects. Many subjects in higher learning such as statistic, finance and physic require mathematics analysis. A math phobia child may get turn off once she knows the study of these subjects involve math.

Is it hereditary?

This is not a hereditary learning disability. It is an acquired perception of fear...probably the child picks up the attitude from parents or teachers. It can be due to unpleasant learning experience.

Suggestions for Parents

If your child is feeling frustrated or dislike math, do find out the fundamental reason why the kid is feeling this way. Look out for sign of anxiety in math tests - your kid has consistently failed badly (such as obtaining 2 out of 100 marks type of failure)

Identify the math topics the child is weak. Work with teachers to ensure the kid understand the “why” and the “how” of mathematical facts and concepts. It is important to build a strong foundation on the basic concept before moving to the next math level.

Have a positive attitude towards math and gives encouragement. This is to help boost the self-confidence of your kid. Dispel the myth that girls are weak in math.

Allow kid to make mistake. Practice on weak topics. Show kid there are many ways to solve math problems.

It is important for parents and teachers to identify if a child has math phobia and anxiety. It is helpful to know there are many researches conducted. Professional help is available if needed.

It is not a doom situation if your child has fear of math. You can help your child to build on other personal strengths and skills instead. Building up one's personal strengths and skills can still get a person to progress well in career and life. But.....never impart this fear of math to your child.

If you do ever have a fear for math, do hold a strong positive attitude towards math with your kid now. Overcome this anxiety and take learning math as a challenge. Work together with your child to solve difficult math word problems. Both of you will feel a sense of satisfaction in overcoming this challenging task.

I no longer fear math anymore. Instead, I enjoy learning math together with my children now. The Singapore Math approach of making math abstract concept concrete has helped many children to set a strong math foundation. It makes teaching and learning math easier for my children and me.


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