Why Do “Some” Children Dread Mathematics?

As I mentioned in the previous post I was a participant on a panel at a local high school’s parent night last year called, “Creating Calculating Kids”.  Prior to this evening, I was sent some math quotes to reflect on in preparation for the discussion.  One of the quotes, was the following:  “Why do children dread mathematics?  Because of the wrong approach?  Because it is looked at as a subject?”  (Shakuntala Devi)

My thoughts:  Yes, I would say that some children dread mathematics because of what they perceive the word “math”  to mean.  For those students who have come to view math as a subject involving a lot of questions to answer, with a lot of rules, in a short amount of time, then yes they dread it.  It is these students who from a very early age do not understand why they are doing something and do not know how they will ever use it.  They are the students who believe that some people are good at math and others are not and that is the way it will always be.  But for those students who have opportunities to engage in rich and relevant tasks, who have the opportunity to pose questions, explore, construct their understanding, work collaboratively with others, they do not dread it.  If they are working in an environment where mistakes are seen as opportunities for growth then they learn to love math.  They will often say that it is fun!  The same students who dread math as a subject often enjoy real world tasks that they do not ‘perceive’ as math.  Let me share a personal example of this:  Two summers ago I got together with a friend, her daughter and her grandson who had just completed Grade 1 (another board).  When I got there I was surprised to hear from his mother that Aaron (name changed to protect the innocent) was a bit nervous that I was coming over to sit around the campfire with them.  I’ve known Aaron since birth but apparently he had just found out that I work in the area of math.  He promptly told me that he didn’t like math.  You can imagine how horrified I was to hear that, but I kept a straight face.  I told him I was sorry to hear that he felt that way, but I didn’t pursue it or say anything at that time (no, I was not going to let that drop, but timing is important).  A little while later, I asked Aaron if he knew how long I had been friends with his grandmother and he said “no”.  I said that I didn’t either but what I did know is that I had met her in 1977.  I no sooner had the words out of my mouth and he was counting and doing some figuring out loud and within a fairly quick time he came up with a number that was reasonably close.  He didn’t have any paper and I’m pretty sure just having completed Grade 1 he hadn’t worked a lot with 4 digit numbers.  (I rest my case!)

Comments · 2

  1. Great article, Vicki. You have a great understanding of what children are processing in their minds. I hope that little boy enjoys math as he continues his education. Keep the articles coming.

    1. Thanks Dorothy! I hope that little boy continues to enjoy math, too. He seems to excel at those real-life math experiences that interest him.

Leave a Reply