Math Fear

“My daughter is afraid of math,” my friend told me. Her daughter is 5.

I said to her, “What in the hell is there to be afraid of at age 5?”

Something is seriously wrong with how she’s being “taught” math if she’s already afraid.

So my friend told me she was thinking of hiring a tutor for her. A TUTOR for a 5 year old. To teach a 5 year old how to add 2+3.

5 year old math concepts should be invisible. Some kids like formal math at age 5, but not all kids do. But no matter how the material is presented to a five year old, it shouldn’t even be in their vocabulary to say they are afraid.

There’s so many things that could be freaking her out. Maybe it’s the fact that she’s being graded and judged at how she’s learning math. Or perhaps she prefers to think about those early math concepts, and she doesn’t want to have to prove to anyone that she knows it. Or, perhaps she understands it just fine, but when she’s asked to talk about it in front of someone, she becomes too aware of the fact that she’s supposed to be learning something, that it blocks her ability to actually learn. Or perhaps it’s because she is being made to do worksheets that she are either too hard, too easy, or just plain dumb in her mind, and saying she’s afraid of math, is her way of saying that math worksheets suck.

Math fear at algebra or calculus, ok, I can understand it. But at age 5? Come on. This child is bright, and lively and bubbly. I told my neighbor, “If she’s afraid of math, take this seriously. This is an early sign that something is not right. And it has nothing to do with your child. It has everything to do with how she’s being taught.”

Then I handed her a book by John Holt, and a book about learning styles.

Math fear at age 5. Makes me want to cry.

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4 Responses to “Math Fear”

  1. Mytle Hocklemeier Says:

    My five year old daughter has a bit of anxiety about math also. But then she has a bit of anxiety about attempting all sorts of new things. Some kids aren’t comfortable taking risks. Other kids are perfectionists and want to avoid making even a single mistake. So, I don’t think necessarily pathological for a young child to not like math.

    What’s strange is that the mother has a “teaching fear” and doesn’t take the time out to get to know exactly what is going on with her child and address it herself.

  2. t Says:

    i was traumatized as a child about math, so i am so careful not to do the same thing.
    here is a post on my recent escapade with her. so far, she thinks working on her book is something cosy we do in bed on special days and that the abacus is somehow linked to breakfast : )
    cheers,
    t
    http://scribbles.typepad.com/lifelearners/2007/01/number_line_wit_1.html

  3. Robin Says:

    What could be seriously wrong is that she is being “taught”math at the age of 5. Good for her that she has the word “fear” in her vocabulary and that she can express that emotion. Too bad that some to many children experience that emotion so *young* when it comes to math because they are being “taught” it too young or the wrong way for them. These children are being set up for math phobia all because whomever has decided to teach them now and the wrong way. People don’t ask the “perhaps” questions. They just keep plugging along despite the verbalized and the nonverbalized fears. That’s sad. Math can wait. Math can also be uniquely and creatively learned or not…when a child is ready. A little anxiety can sometimes be natural when it comes to learning new things. I agree. Ongoing anxiety and fear is a sign to ask the “right” questions.

  4. Anna B Says:

    Insert gutteral sound of disgust here.


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