Why Grown-ups Should Shut Their Traps about Hating Math

A big thanks to @dansmath at DansMath.com for this post suggestion.

  1. Do you hate math?
  2. Do you really hate math?
  3. Do you have kids?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, this post is for you.

I’m not here to convince you to love math. I’m not even here to help you not hate it. But if you’ve got kids around, you gotta do something about your vocalization of this.

We want the next generation to be better than the previous generation – in everything. That’s our nature as parents and people.

In order to improve the next generation, the previous generations must either die or shut their traps. This is the case with racism, sexism, creed-ism and sexual orientation-ism. And it’s the case with anti-mathism, as well.

You certainly don’t want to die before your children finish their eduction, so you gotta learn to keep quiet.

Zip your lip for yourself.

Southwest Airlines tells you to put on your own oxygen mask before you help others put on theirs.

Your first step is to get yourself out of the habit of saying negative math things. This will make it easier when refraining from talking bad about math in front of kids.

If you’re math phobic, start doing this when you’re pregnant. If you will never have kids, do it anyway. Children are everywhere – you might’ve noticed.

The more you say it, the more you believe it. Which makes you say it even more.

Use this to your advantage, not your disadvantage. Every time you say, “I’m bad at math,” you get worse. You are the smartest person you know and you should believe whatever you say. Which means whatever your tell yourself will be true.

So tell yourself that math is okay. And if you can’t muster this, tell yourself something you are good at.

Don’t let your friends do it either.

If your friends say they hate math in front of your children, correct  them. Treat this behavior just as you would if your friend said the F-word.

Give them “the look.” Correct them with other words like, “Math has always been an interesting challenge for Aunt Sophie… right?

Be an example.

Your children take to heart what you say. They want to be like you. If you hate math, they want to hate math too. Even if they really don’t.

So when you feel the words coming toward your lips, force something good to come out. If you can’t say, “Math is fun” without cringing, tell them something you are good at. Anything works. Even if it seems lame.

Instead of:

Kiddo: Awww! I have to do fraction homework today. I hate fractions.
Grownup: I know, sweetheart. I never liked math either.

Try this instead:

Kiddo: Awww! I have to do fraction homework today. I hate fractions.
Grownup: Well, I’m good at cooking chicken!

Kiddo will think you’re nuts, but won’t associate any negativity to math. And since he already thinks you’re nuts, you’re good to go.

Use distraction.

If finding something you’re good at doesn’t come quick enough, scream some random swearword and say, “Oh my goodness I can’t believe I forgot…” and run out of the room. Compose yourself, prepare a short  sentence or two and go back into the room.

Some sentences to consider are:

  • Where were we Kiddo? Oh right, fractions. Well, fractions help us share things. If you, your dad and I want to share a pizza, we need fractions in order to divide it up. If you do your homework with fractions, I’ll let you divide up the pizza that we get at Chuck E Cheese’s on Saturday!
  • Fractions are interesting because they have two parts – a top and a bottom. You have a top and a bottom! Do your fractions and then we’ll wash your top and your bottom in the tub before dinner.

Avoid statements like, “Fractions are good for you.” Math shouldn’t be equated to vegetables. They’re good for you but you have to tolerate them. That may be your opinion, but remember were trying to improve the next generation.


When negative math-speak comes to your tongue, say something else, anything else. Do it for you, do it for the children. Don’t die, but do shut your trap.

If you’re interested in more statements like the two above, let me know in the comments. I’ll create some for different topics.

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9 Responses to Why Grown-ups Should Shut Their Traps about Hating Math

  1. I don’t mind people hating maths. Maths does seem to lead to a lot of good jobs, so the less people going for them, the better in my eyes 🙂

    • I see that – but if more of the younger generation got better at math, then they would create more jobs. Plus, once Daughter is old enough to take over, I (and you probably) will be ready to retire. So it won’t really affect us.

      Remember, I want the kids to get better, not the grown-ups. They just need to fake it.

      Thanks for the comment, Rhys!

  2. Bon, I like you, but I hate math. Yuck, ick, nooooooooooo (runs away screaming).

    However, I have (correctly) told an engineer his calculations were wrong. I can do it subconsciously, but not when I think about it.

    • That’s a topic for another post indeed, Jodi! How to do math and not think about it. Or something like that.

      It’s all in the confidence – and if you don’t know you can’t, you will.

      Thanks for your comment and keep writing “I hate math” – just don’t say it in front of the kids! 😀

  3. Bon,
    I don’t mind maths…i just wish my kids’ teachers were better at it! I think I spend more time teaching it to my kids than their teachers do!! Grrr!

    • ARRG! That’s so frustrating. I’m already anticipating the battles when Daughter gets big enough to have a math teacher.

      Don’t forget to let me know what your kiddos are working on and I can support you in that. Use the Request a Solution feature to let me in on the helping.

      Thanks, Lynda!

  4. How about some advice on what to do if you notice your child struggling with math, but you’re not very good at it either?

    Also, maybe some info about the learning disability that affects people’s ability to understand numbers?

    • Thanks a bunch, Treacle. The first one I can do with no problem. The 2nd I’ll have to look into, so give me a couple of weeks.

      I’ve had a number of students in my classes through the years with official math learning disabilities (official because they get papers from the college giving them special consideration). I never thought to ask about the details of it. Mostly it affected me because I needed to give them more time – which is pretty normal even if you don’t have an official disability.

      I’ll check into it for sure!

  5. We are embarrassed to say- I hate reading. I was never good at reading. I can’t do reading. Why is it ok to say that about math? It hurts children, absolutely! I gives them an excuse to quit. Please stop.

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