Meaningful Parenting- Do you or your child has 'Math-phobia?' Have you ever failed in your Maths exam? Part 1

If Yes...continue reading. Don't miss the end ....because that's the start.

Math-phobia is described by me as an extreme, persistent fear of the subject Mathematics. Others refer to it as -----Numerophobia or Arithmophobia which is the exaggerated, constant, and often irrational fear of numbers.

Innumerable expressions for this deep-rooted fear, Math phobia strikes many and has a tendency to spread over a lifetime.
'Fear' can still be managed. What about the 'nightmare,' the 'horror' and the 'phobia' which one is subjected to.


Math is the glorious barometer for 'being intelligent'- You cannot deny that. Looks like a stereotype coming from ages but a powerful one even now.
Let's look at how it starts and what happens when one is caught up in this downward spiral.

THE START-It starts the day (whichever grade the child is in) with a mathematical question 
  • Stays unresolved despite attempts.
  • You get the wrong answer. You reach out to the teacher/parents/tutor, and your correct answer remains elusive.
  • You get the correct answer after repeated attempts and helping, but the process still baffles you. You remain unclear about how you got the correct answer.
  • You don't dare to ask your teacher/parent/tutor the second or third time. They have already labeled you - 'Can't you understand this? It's so simple."
And so, you jump to the next concept without being strong on your previous one.

  • Next mathematical problem- the process repeats. WRONG ANSWER.
  • Next one-WRONG ANSWER.
  • Next one- FAILED
  • You summon the courage and go to the parent - 'Ask your teacher' is what they say. 
  • You go the teacher - 'Meet me after school' or 'The class has moved to the next chapter. I will ask Sam (the brainy) to help you out.'
  • Sam- 'It's straightforward. See it’s like this."' You don't want to appear dumb head before your friend, and you nod- 'Yeah, understood."

  • Next mathematical problem- Failed again.
  • Next- Criticism, comparison from parents /teachers/tutors.
  • Next one- 'I don't like Maths. I am scared of Maths.'
  • Next-'I hate Maths.'
  • Next-' ******************Math’s. I can't do this. It's beyond me. It makes me feel terrible.'

This failure multiplies the preexisting fear and now what we have is a 'math-phobic child.'

A small mathematical problem in 3rd grade becomes a terror by 8th grade, a career deciding factor by 12th grade, and a  personality deficiency in the eyes of significant others for life.

What it does to Self is even crueler.

  • Self-Image gets a fatal blow- "I don’t seem to be able to solve these problems. How will I finish my homework?  Maybe I will copy it from my friend early in the morning."

  • The following day- Blind copying happens. Class after class, the math concepts keep getting complicated, and the 'fearful child' is finding it even more difficult.

  • Math tests take place, and the child scores poor marks. That's good enough to upset the parents, who further hit at his self-image and label him "I was so good at Maths. I wonder how did you become like this? Why don’t you study more?"

  • The fearful child grapples with the difficulties as he tries to secure 'pass marks' in the exam. Poor grades affect the child, and he goes through the process of ‘Learned Helplessness.’  By this time, the fearful child is under a lasting effect produced by exposure to situations (in this case, constantly getting poor grades) in which nothing a child does work. There is no positive reinforcement or an escape from negative feelings.  The child finally quits.

And here comes the most unsettling part- These children, individuals, retire to a seemingly passive state and simply don’t try. The child or the individual perceives that he has no control over this subject despite how much he tries. 

  • Often, a child witnesses the spill-over effect whereby grades go down as the fear of 'numbers' spreads to other subjects that require dealing with numbers.

  • Parents contribute effectively by comparing the 'fearful child' to his better sibling or his friends who are doing well in school. This hits the child's self-esteem. He thinks poorly of himself and as a member of the family. Many times poor grades are the reason for enormous conflict with parents. The expectation mismatch further adds to the already suffering 'Self.' 

  • The teacher’s preference for Math makes 'the not so smart one’ a backbencher at school. Sometimes, the teachers inadvertently show appreciation for the 'Math’s Kids' and reach out to them for Math’s competitions, solve an equation, show it to the class, and praise the 'Math kid' for being 'brainy.'

Gradually one is branded 'under- performer' in general.

  • The downward spiral continues until the child thinks of himself as 'worthless.' The deep-seated fear further escalates as more failures embark. By 10th grade, one is ready to dis-burden Maths and choose a different field of study. It also affects career choice as one tries to refrain from those career lines that are numbers-centric.

Later on, this fear finds representation while dealing with technology, MS Excel, and other areas of life where numerical ability is required.

This doesn’t happen overnight. The painful journey that started from, for example- 3rd grade tarnished many aspects of life for many individuals who later found joy in their chosen field. For some, it scarred them forever. And I am one of them.
The madness of 'fitting in' is sometimes so unreasonable that one cannot see that one is made to 'stand out and live.

Many of us have gone through this journey. Do we want this for our child? Haven't we suffered enough?

You may wonder------------Had it not been for her, would I have become an Einstein?
May yes/Maybe no.
I wouldn’t have got a 97/100, but I wouldn’t have landed up with 27/100 either.
But I wouldn't be saying this to my 10-year-old child- "Sorry, I can't help. I was terrible at Maths. Go to your Daddy."
But I wouldn't be taking my application back from a job that requires- Data crunching.

I would have been a different person if not a Math person.

Click on the link to read Part 2- The solution lies here.

Image courtesy-Pixabay


  1. It is so beautifully written. Perfectly sums up my life as a student and my fear of math. I still am scared of math. Scared that it will become an obstacle in achieving whatever I have dreamt. Maybe being good in other subjects is not good enough if we are not so good in math.

    1. I can understand Ayushi for I have been there and I am still there. I found my peace after penning down this article. I hope you find your peace with Maths too.

  2. the stereotype parents n teachers r the ones who make the child math phobic. They brand a child useless when they r weak in a particular aspect rather than trying to helpthem. Some does help but they giveup easily, not every child is so determinant, without elder support, to make a bright future. N for math rather than asking the kid to do more hard work let's sit next to them n help them to learn math in a supportive n funny manner. I used this technique with ten's of students n most of them r good at math...

    1. Yes Sudarshan. If that is how you have been teaching, I think you have been doing a 'GOOD JOB'.

  3. Such great pics and you seem to have drawn them. Parenting has so many difficult moments and yours seem so genuine. I love your detailed description

  4. Yes Menaka. I did draw them. In a world of instant pics, selfies, copy & paste and photoshop...I wanted to retain some bit of originality and 'raw' aspect. Am glad you liked. Thank you so much.More than that you noticed. :)

    Every word of your's is a feedback to me and my self to continue being genuine.:)


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