Is math a four letter word in your family? If you or one of your kids struggles with math, it can affect your WHOLE life and sometimes you feel so overwhelmed you don’t know what to do about it. Math can be conquered – if you have the right battle plan!
You get that math is important. You know that math won’t go away, because it’s everywhere lurking around corners. Yet, this arithmetic thingy is causing you so much stress in your life that you are looking for real solutions to make it more manageable!
Wouldn’t it be great if math could become your friend, an ally that you could use as a competitive edge in everything you do?
It can! And not only can you negotiate a truce with math, you can even learn to enjoy it. How do I know this? Because math was my absolute WEAKEST subject in school and I hated it! It was so frustrating! It took me for-ever to get through it, and I never understood why some kids seemed to excel at it and even loved it.
I confess that I didn’t struggle with math to the extent that some kids did, but it was a royal pain for me and I felt like I could never get away from it.
Now I have a bachelor’s degree in business with a major in ACCOUNTING! And I really love math.
Yep, that’s right! I must love self-punishment, right?
Nope – I whooped math. I beat it instead of letting it beat me!
But, before I tell you how all of that happened, let me give you the back story. You need to know where I was and how I got to where I am today.
My Failure to Success Story
I will tell you my story, debunk some myths about math, and provide you with tools and resources to change the outcome you are getting from failure to success.
My struggles all started early in elementary school. Learning my multiplication facts was agonizing. On top of that, we had to do TIMED TESTS on our multiplication facts. I was a walking ball of anxiety! The teacher would hand out the tests and I would shake and sweat, then watch all the other kids crack ’em out in time to earn a treat.
Those who mastered their facts and could scribble them out on paper in less than 5 minutes would earn a Dilly Bar from Dairy Queen. I watched as the whole class, one by one got their treat, while I struggled just to stay conscious during the test. The timer always made my mind race and then it would go blank.
The thing is, I didn’t care about getting ice cream. What really got to me was the embarrassment. I was so self-conscious. Everyone knew I couldn’t pass the test!
Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, one day, without prior warning I was pulled from my regular class and put in what us kids called the “dummy” math class. What made it even worse is that the teacher did it RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF CLASS.
The whole class got to watch as I scooped up my belongings and was escorted to the “dummy” math class. Then the all the kids in the “dummy” math class got to observe as I was seated in their class. EVERYONE was staring at me and I felt so humiliated!
So, guess what? From that day forward, I just knew I was bad at math. I was labeled by everyone, and in my kid brain it was settled. The verdict was handed down. Case closed. Math would ALWAYS be hard for me because I was a math “dummy.”
Things got worse in Jr. High. In pre-algebra my teacher was hard to understand and an absolute crab. She would get mad at us kids for asking questions and was always short with us. Come to find out later that she was terminally ill, and probably had to keep working to keep her health insurance. That was really unfortunate, and it was unfortunate for my math skills as well. I never got a firm grasp of pre-algebra and now I had to learn more math on that shaky foundation.
As the years progressed, I got by in math. BUT, I never really liked it. I avoided it when I could. It was “icky math.”
Then everything changed.
When I grew up, I discovered that I really love business. Business was fun! Finding creative ways to make money was exciting! I wanted to be an accountant, because they get to be involved in business. Plus, I loved organizing things. Now I had a REASON to be good at math. I had to learn math. I wanted to learn math so I could do what I loved!
So what did I do? I just started at the beginning. I started back in pre-algebra at the college to iron out all the math kinks in my brain. I didn’t care how long it took. My goal was to go slowly and take as long as I needed until I mastered the concepts. The teachers I got were awesome, too.
You know what was really cool? I found out that I was actually really good at math. I got all 4.0s in all my math classes. I even got to help other people with their math.
That is a key point you must understand! I was never bad at math, I only THOUGHT I was. My problem was not my ability, but MY BELIEF IN MYSELF.
The label I had stuck on my forehead was “math dummy” and I BELIEVED it. I just didn’t know any better.
Do you know what else? To this day, I don’t have all my math facts memorized. Hahahah! Take that you stupid Dilly Bar! Can you believe that? I graduated with an accounting degree with honors not knowing all my math facts. Doesn’t it make you kind of wonder why schools push that so hard?
Fast forward a few years. My daughter started to struggle like I did. Why? Because of trauma at school and a belief put in her head that she wasn’t good enough. Now, I am fortunate enough to home school her. She isn’t dumb at all. Math is just boring to her. Why? It’s because it doesn’t seem to be useful to her. We decided to get off of that unproductive hamster wheel and do things our way.
Here are some key things YOU should know if you or your kid struggles with math:
- You are smart. Math is a skill, not an intelligence assessment. Learning a skill takes practice and time. Some skills just naturally come easier for others, but mastery is open to everyone willing to put in the work.
- Your brain doesn’t work the same way as the next person’s does, and that’s OK. Some people learn better by hearing. Others learn better by seeing. My daughter happens to be a tactile learner, meaning she has to be moving and touching things while she watches and hears. It looks like she isn’t paying attention, but she actually is. This got her into all kinds of trouble at school, because she was expected to sit still and “pay attention.”
- It is AWESOME that we all think a little different. That is how problems get solved. Each person brings a unique perspective to a situation and it helps everyone understand things on a much deeper level.
- Math will be boring if you don’t understand how useful it is. No sane person wants to do repetitively boring tasks with no clear benefit from it.
- People learn at different rates. I am naturally a slow learner, but it is because I soak up every detail and analyze those details many different ways to better understand. It makes me look dense to other people, but what comes out is a quality level ten times higher than those around me produce. You know that story about the Tortoise and the Hare? I am the turtle. It’s cool to be a turtle, so embrace it if you are one!
- Sometimes learning things when you are older and more mature makes learning them easier and faster. If you don’t get it now, in time it can get easier. I really believe that learning can only take place when a person is ready and willing to learn.
- Timed tests are STUPID, unless you like the challenge. All this does is traumatize people like me who like to take their time and do it right. Timed tests should always be optional with early learning.
- Teachers are imperfect. They have their own problems and limitations, just like the rest of us. A teacher’s way of teaching needs to match how the student learns. It’s OK to switch teachers if it helps.
- Lots of failures add up to an eventual success. We have a society that promotes perfection right out of the gate. This is soooo damaging and ridiculous!! The result is people stop trying. They are scared to fail, to be scolded, to look foolish. All of the big breakthroughs and major successes in history came after a long string of failures. Failure is an important part of learning. It is a positive thing and we need to stop punishing people for failing.
- It is OK to take a break, but not OK to quit. If you get frustrated, take a break. If you get stuck, take a break. It helps your brain work better and process things better. Listen to positive music, read your favorite book, and when you feel better try again!
- Anything valuable and worth learning takes a lot of effort and perseverance. The success that has been labored for is so much sweeter and rewarding.
- Math will feel useless to you if you don’t have a strong WHY or reason to learn it. Once I knew WHY I wanted to learn math and how much it would bring to my life, it was easy to put in the work. Nobody wants to work for nothing. Having a clear purpose for your goals makes them fun to work towards.
- Slow down and enjoy the learning process. Celebrate small victories and track your progress so you can see how far you have come!
Math helps that worked for us.
To help my daughter learn her times tables, we got a DVD called “Times Tales.” This DVD has stories and characters that help kids remember the answers to their math facts, because they give the child context. They remember the answer, because they remember the story.
Plus, it’s fun and engaging! It only covers the harder facts and leaves out the zeros, ones and twos. It worked well with my daughter. She did learn all her facts. She isn’t super speedy, but she has them down good enough to get her work done. I occasionally pop the DVD in for a refresher.
Another program we are using is Math-U-See. I love this math course, because it is visual, auditory and tactile all at the same time. Kids use blocks that resemble Legos to physically mimic problems so they can see what actually happens in reality when doing a math problem.
The instruction is on DVD so you can watch and hear a real math teacher, who goes slowly and gives lots of different ways to look at the problem. He helps the viewer see patterns. Another big benefit is he is always nice and will never yell at you!
Plus, if your child whines and argues with you a lot while you are trying to teach, it might be better if they learn from another instructor. I find this true for any topic that is frustrating – replace parent instruction if it seems to cause conflict.
If you are an adult who struggles with math, you don’t have to go to college to get better. You can use this course, too!
What drives you?
The world can be a pretty negative and discouraging place, so what you can do is turn that around. Find the fun things, the positive things, and all the beneficial things! Find YOUR MATH WHY so you can turn your dread into excitement. Chances are you were programmed to be negative about math and what you were programmed with was a lie. You can change that!
The best place to start, now that you understand you are smart and capable, is a list of WHY MATH. Why is math worth mastering?
For an example, here is my list:
I use math to…
- Save money
- Help other people save money
- Make money
- Help other people make money
- Build enclosures for my cute little rabbits
- Cook great meals
- Make beautiful handmade soap
- Set my goals
- Calculate supplies needed and costs for fun art projects
- Bake yummy treats
- Analyze business profitability
- Analyze what I do to become more effective
- Calculate sales tax and make change when I sell soap to my customers
- Plan my grocery shopping
- Budget for fun family vacations so we get to do the most with the least amount of money
- Calculate the amount of fabric needed for my latest sewing project
- Find mistakes on medical bills
- Make sure the pizza and cake is divided up fairly
- Calculate profit from eBay sales
- Figure out how many chickens to buy to get enough eggs for our family and friends
- Plan a garden
- Buy the best car for my needs
- Figure out if I have enough time to add a new project to my schedule
- Run a successful blog
- Calculate the cost of goods sold
- Figure out which products are the most profitable to sell
- And the list goes on…
What about you? What do you love to do and how can improved math skills make that better for you? What are some things you would really like to do that require math?
As you work to master the skill of math, and you start to see the benefits of knowing how to do math, you will naturally start to like math better. Why is this? It’s because we tend to enjoy doing the things we are good at.
Once you are more confident in your math skills, you will naturally enjoy it more. You just have to get past some of those difficult stages first. You learned how to walk, despite all of the falling, frustration and bruises, right? Aren’t you glad you did? Think of all the things in life you would miss out on if you never stayed determined to take those first steps.
I hope this encourages you! If little old me the “math dummy” can earn a degree in accounting, you can learn math too.
I believe in you!
Disclaimer: Jaimie is not the great and powerful Wizard of Oz, a lawyer, a doctor, a veterinarian, or a CPA. Nothing your read in my blog is a substitute for professional advice and doing your own good research. Remember that just because someone has credentials doesn’t guarantee their advice is golden or perfect. Put your smart hat on and do your due diligence. Good luck!