How to Quit Saying “I Hate Math”

Is changing how you feel about math like changing who you are?

My Little Brother is a licensed professional counselor. He often tells me that you can change your attitude by changing your behavior.

Apparently the behavior-attitude door swings both ways. If you don’t want to do something because you feel frustrated, do it anyway and that will clear up the frustration.

So that’s how you can get your attitude and your child’s attitude aligned with positive feelings of math.

Stop saying angry math things.

I’ve pointed out that the real place kids learn math is at home. And I’ve discussed why grown-ups should quit talking about hating math. But until now, I’ve never said how to do this.

Because it’s easier said than done right? When you’re frustrated, or your children are frustrated, you’ve gotta say something. So you can’t “just stop.”

HOW do you quit saying “I hate math” (when you really do hate math)?

First, make a list of all the math things you do (download the handy helper here). Here’s a starter list for both you and your children:

gas station
Image via Wikipedia
  • I know how long it takes to get dressed and so I can calculate when I have to wake up in the morning.
  • I can figure out if our car is getting good gas mileage.
  • I can figure out if I have enough money saved to by a nice toy.
  • I know what I have in savings and if that’s enough to buy the fancy shoes I want.
  • I know how many minutes it takes me to walk to my friend’s house.
  • I know that riding my bike to my friend’s house is faster than walking.
  • I know that in the past I couldn’t reach the middle of the dinner table, and now I can – because my arms are longer.
  • I can figure out how much I’ve grown in the past year by looking at my growth chart.

Copy your list and put it on the refrigerator, in the bathrooms, on the front door and next to your bed. When you find your child or yourself wanting to say, “I hate math,” instead say, “I can do math because ____” and fill in the blank with something from the list. If you need to, continue like this:

This particular math problem I’m working on is more challenging than what I already know, but it isn’t hard. I just have to figure it out. And since I’m smart enough to do all that other math, I can figure this out!

The behavior of changing what you say will have a positive affect on how you and your children feel about math!

Try it. Let me know how it goes!

This article is linked to in the We Are That Family “Works for Me Wednesday” post.

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10 Responses to How to Quit Saying “I Hate Math”

  1. Bon, this is great advice.

    I deal daily with students who have finished school, are studying to be teachers, many of whom are anxious, frustrated or hateful towards math. I wish all parents and future teachers could listen to your excellent points.

    Thank you!

    • Thanks for the kind words, Peter! It’s a bummer to hear that. We need positive math talk in the world.

  2. I thought I was terrible at math and didn’t like it, but it turns out, I just didn’t like the math teachers I had in school. I have been delving into math so that I can better teach my daughter, and I discovered that I actually really like it. Strange…

    • How exciting! And how sad that it took you this long to discover it. Well, you’ll have a blast teaching it to your sweet one – and you’ll learn more cool stuff than you ever thought possible.

      Thanks for your comments, Heidi!

  3. This is great! Since mostly kids today really always saying that “I hate math” thing.

    I think that parents do have a great role here. They need to show that knowing math is a great thing, that it’s not boring. Applying it to your everyday activities will greatly establish a mind set of loving math instead of hating it.

    Thanks for pointing this out Bon!

    • Thanks for your comments, Melvin!

      It breaks my heart when I hear kids say “I hate math.” It’s almost as bad as hearing grownups say it!

  4. I have copied your math “affirmation” and will paste it on my phone until I have it memorized. My design students tell me they hate math, and your affirmation will be on the board in the fall. Thanks.

    • That’s so good to hear, Connie!

      I love the fact that you incorporate math into every one of your design classes. That is very inspirational. How different would math ed be if all teachers would integrate math into their classes!

  5. I’m 48 years old and in my 3rd year as a part time community college student. I earned A’s in English 101 and 102, Art History, Drawing-I, all of my photography classes, but I had to enroll in a remedial math class because I absolutely despise math. I made it through my first remedial math class scraping by with a B-, but this semester I’m in a class that’s one level above last semester and we are learning pre-algebra. I sincerely don’t think I’ll be able to pass this class, even with tutoring. Sorry to be a downer here, but I have always hated math and always will hate math.

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