There is a stigma that comes along with the subject of mathematics that is really hard to shake off. Whether your child has been to public school at some point or whether you hate math yourself, there can be a black cloud over math that is difficult to shake and can sometimes seem downright impossible to move out from.
Math is definitely NOT my favorite subject. As a homeschool mom, we can teach our kids in a way that allows them to step away from the negativity of math and to think differently. My daughter loves math, she is an anomaly like other math lovers out there. My son on the other hand, not so much.
Hang out for a bit to read about what you can do if your kid just does not like, can’t get into, or even seems like they hate math.
It is important to understand why kids tend to dislike math so much. I mean, it is almost as if it’s ingrained in them to not like it but it shouldn’t be. Some kids find it too hard, overwhelming, or boring. How many times have you been overly frustrated with your kids because they don’t “get it?” It can truly frustrate us to the limit and can make our kids miserable or feel like failures. It can make us feel like failures too.
You don’t want to get to a point where your homeschoolers do less and less math in order to minimize the struggle. One of the best things we can do is find ways to make math less strenuous. Let’s be real here. Math doesn’t get easier.
If you ensure your kids know the foundations and basics, future math will be more tolerable and doable. When kids “get” math they actually like it, go figure!
Before we explore the tips of what we can do for kids who hate math, let’s go over some basics.
Math is not a subject where you can be hands-off, at least not until they have grasped their basics. Math truly may be a subject that you have to stay involved in for a while if your child isn’t fond of it.
Some kids will love math or at least get the concepts enough to be OK at it. This is geared more towards those children who hate math, and even parents who dread teaching it (like I used to).
Now that we have established that we can’t just give our kids some worksheets to do, mark them, then move on for kids who hate math, we can proceed. We want to ensure that our kids absorb the fundamentals of math like computations, fractions, percentages, and decimals, BEFORE moving on to more difficult math lessons or concepts.
Here are some things we can do to make math less grueling for our kids, and ourselves:
1. Level testing
It may be necessary to STOP where you are in math if you find your child hating it. Just stop. It’s OK. Get your child to take tests that can tell you where they are and what level they should be in. There are plenty of tests out there that are completely free or very inexpensive to help you establish where your child is academically in math. Many frustrations and reluctance can be due to not “getting” something.
You are a homeschool family and are not up against the time clock — for the most part. Taking a step back is not regressing. Taking a step back is equipping your child with the foundations in order for them to not have gaps in their learning. Gaps in learning equal reluctance.
Check out these FREE Just-Right level assessments from Wings to Soar to help you. I used them for my son and started from there.
2. Establish a positive attitude ( I mean OUR attitude)
It is no secret that even parents don’t like math at times. Some love it, I know. For me, I was never a fan because I always felt lost somehow, like I was not catching the whole math thing. I would get a test, barely pass sometimes and just move on.
Saying thing like, “I hate math” or griping, “Ugh you don’t need this when you grow up” can be an attitude you are passing on to your children without even knowing it.
If your child hates math, it would behoove us as parents to counter that attitude with a positive one. This doesn’t mean we have to be fake about it. It means we don’t talk negatively about math — at all — when our child hates it.
3. Put in the time and effort
It is tempting to just assign work to kids, a quick video to watch and then have them “try out” the problems. It is easy to do this especially, with a subject we may be a little hazy on. If you do this and your child craves your attention, they may associate hard subjects like math with feeling abandoned. If there is a subject we enjoy or our kids do well at, we enjoy being involved. Harder subjects are easier to put off.
How can we get our children to not hate a subject when the person they love the most is not there for them through it? It is hard for kids to like a subject they have to do alone. This means we have to work through math problems with them. Even only ten minutes of going through a problem will help your child feel as if they are not alone in it. This leads me to the next item to help your child not hate math entirely.
4. Long lessons are counterproductive
If your child hates math, we should work through problems with them. Yes, this is true, but if you have 20 problems to complete, it can be super discouraging. Use your freedom in homeschooling to only do a few problems at a time or to work on the math problems only a certain amount of time a day. This will relieve stress for both of you.
Whether your child does 2 or 3 problems with encouragement and positivity, even with some struggle, is still better than doing 20 problems, struggling with hours going by and feeling defeated.
Short and hands-on math together will make it a positive experience.
5. Teach your kids the “why” of math
As you teach your reluctant math learner, one of the best things to do is make connections. Sometimes math seems like this far away alien that we are trying to get to know for no real reason. Why do your kids need to learn math, subtraction, multiplication etc? It may help them to connect their “why” in math to learning real-world situations they MUST know as adults.
Our friends are missionaries where I live and her husband is a builder. Their son is super hyperactive but amazingly awesome with everything but sitting for school. It is hard for him to stay still and math is like a jumble of mess to him. Her husband now takes their son to come along with him whenever he has some jobs to do. His son goes with him and his dad shows him how to do the calculations of measurement for each cut of wood or anything else with computations or problem solving. This is a real-life application for kids that makes sense.
Children enjoy math more when they understand why they are doing it or showing how it applies to them in life.
Fractions and baking, measurements and building, addition and subtraction at the grocery store, and multiplication with fruit at the market. These are all real-life examples that can help your kids make connections with math and the world around them.
Don’t forget to celebrate your child’s success.
A reward system may not work with a child who hates math. It can become redundant and add no value to their attitude towards it, especially as they get older. However, celebrating a unit or term with a celebration and a treat or a lunch they want will really show them that you have appreciated their hard work.
Remember that one child will not exactly learn like the other or like kids in other families. What is unequivocally true is that every step of math needs to be learned efficiently in order to move on to the other. Homeschooling mom, you have the right to do that for the benefit of your child and you. If you are not already, I hope you can try these or a combination of two to see if things get a little better.
We would love to hear what you think or get your take on what to do if a child hates math. Visit us Homeschool Giveaways on Facebook and share with us what you think.
Jeannette is a wife, mother and homeschooling mom. She has been mightily, saved by grace and is grateful for God’s sovereignty throughout her life’s journey. She has a Bachelor in English Education and her MBA. Jeannette is bi-lingual and currently lives in the Tongan Islands of the South Pacific. She posts daily freebies for homeschoolers!