Fear is our natural response to danger. All of us are afraid of a few things in life. Be it a fear of lizards or a fear of large crowds or even a fear of numbers. Sadly, we often pass on these fears to our children unintentionally.
Scientists have found that humans are born with only two fears – a fear of falling and a fear of loud noises. (Source: https://thriveglobal.com/stories/fears-we-are-born-with/). The other fears are inherited either by cultural factors or are learned during our lifetime.
Although a good hold of mathematics is necessary for our daily life, for most children, an unexplained fear sets in on hearing the word ‘Math’. This is also true for a lot of adults. Research shows that almost 50% of adults cannot do simple math. So, is there a way to get over this inexplicable anxiety?
The good news is, yes! Fear of numbers can definitely be overcome. Math should not be looked at as a “subject” taught in school. It is a life skill that plays a crucial role in understanding the contents of other school subjects such as science, social studies, and even music and art.
3 easy steps to help children overcome the fear of numbers:
1. Application in Daily Life
In order to make children comfortable with math, we should focus on application of math in daily life through problem solving as math concepts are best absorbed when incorporated into daily application and real-life situations. A good way to develop the child’s interest in Math is by helping them get comfortable with math concepts like measuring and counting at home at an early age. For example, we can discuss pouring milk from a carton and how much is left over or calculate the left-over change while paying for groceries.
2. Interact with Numbers Without Fear of Judgment
Another good practice is to encourage children to solve math puzzles on a regular basis. Practicing math problems without thinking of exams or the outcome can help curb the fear to a great extent. It is a slow process but helpful. Children who regularly take quizzes, play number games and solve puzzles gradually get more comfortable with the subjects which in turn removes the fear from them. For example, introducing digit cards, sudoku or other number games for effortless solving is a good idea.
Repeated solving of the same type of problems also gives the child a good hold on the concepts. For example, a child practicing addition of numbers will know how to count 5+1 on his fingers and get the correct result. A mere change in the digits like 5+5 will not confuse her.
Once the child has a good grasp on the simple topics, they can be gradually introduced to complex topics like divisions, fractions, decimals etc. Introducing these complex topics by way of pictures, interesting word problems etc. makes it an enjoyable experience for kids. Thus, sparking the child’s interest and eliminating fear.
As William Paul Thurston rightly said, “Mathematics is not about numbers, equations, computations, or about algorithms. It’s about understanding.”
We all need to be comfortable with numbers with varying levels of complexity in our professional lives. A fine understanding of mathematical concepts from an early age reflects in better academic and professional achievement!