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How to Motivate Kids Who “Hate Math”

I’ve students who love math, but I’ve had a lot more who say that they hate math. When kids have a mindset against math, it can get in the way of learning. It can be tough to shake an “I hate math” mentality, but it’s useful.

Here are some of the key reasons I hear kids say they hate math — and how I try to change their thinking.

4 Reasons Kids Hate Math (and how to get around them)

Here are some of the key reasons I hear kids say they hate math—and how I try to change their thinking.

Math has no purpose.

You’ll hear this one a lot as “When am I ever going to use this?” Start collecting everyday uses of math—you could even set up a board in your class and ask other students help find ideas. A few to get you started:

  • Doubling a recipe to feed more people
  • Calculating how much of a material you need to create a project
  • Comparing prices
  • Dividing things evenly among a group
  • Figuring out how long you would have to work at a certain rate to reach a goal

Point out when students do math outside of math lesson time.

Math is hard.

Remind students that everything is hard when you are learning it. Talk about other things they have learned to do. Challenge kids to do things they think are hard!

Then make sure kids are solid on the basics. Teaching and practicing mental math skills helps. Depending on their age, knowing their doubles or multiplication tables can help as well. The more comfortable kids are with basic skills, the better able they are to transition to higher level skills or apply the skills they know to more complex problems.

Math is rigid.

One of the things some people like about math is that it seems very black and white. You get the right answer, or you don’t. Because of this, kids may not see that math is creative or that there are different ways to approach a problem.

Teach several approaches and let kids see what works best for them. Let them work together as groups to problem solve. Seeing how other people think through things can demonstrate different ways to look at math.

Math is boring.

The idea that math is boring may be related to the idea that math is rigid or not creative. It may be tied to long pages of problem sets. Help dispel the idea that math is boring by having fun with math. Let kids play with patterns or create math-based art. Teach them math games or use fun math activity sheets.

And if you really want to jazz up math time to help kids stop saying “I hate math,” try the Bumper Book of Fun Math Games and Activities.

Free sample of math games and activities

You can try some of the math activities that are included in the Bumper Book of Fun Math Games and Activities here:

Who Else Wants Some Free & Easy Printable Math Games?

Math isn’t boring or hard or rigid or useless. As teachers, we can help kids get excited about math even as we work with curriculum standards.

Here are some of the key reasons I hear kids say they hate math — and how I try to change their thinking.

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