9 Maths Myths That Are Killing Your Child’s Achievement


Why maths myths need to be destroyed

I’m fed up of the bad reputation maths has. It’s not just the fact that people believe some of the myths about maths that are floating about, it’s the effect these myths are having on our potential future mathematicians.

Glastonbury Tor
Creative Commons License photo credit: midlander1231

People are getting the wrong idea about this beautiful and essential subject, and these ideas are doing our children a disservice and giving them the excuse NOT to aspire to do well in maths.

So for the next 2 minutes, I’m going break down some of the maths myths that may be killing your child’s maths achievement. Get the wrecking ball ready!

1) Maths is hard

Maths can be hard, if you don’t practise it enough and if you don’t know the basics. Imagine taking up rugby and not knowing how to throw and catch a ball properly before being thrown into a match.

2) Some people are just good at maths

Research has shown that even young babies understand basic maths concepts such as counting, grouping and matching. Some people are good at maths because they spend more time using maths, in their jobs or in their hobbies. Point out how maths is used in your cild’s interests.

3) Calculators can do all the maths for me

It is true that we have computers and calculators that can carry out calculations for us, but these devices can only give us results based on what we put it.  If your child doesn’t relies on computers and calculators, they won’t know if the answer is correct. Estimating exercises are a good way to help your child use calculators with confidence.

4) You don’t need to know the basics

Maths is like a tall building. It needs strong foundations. If your child doesn’t know the maths basics, then as maths gets harder through the years, your child will end up falling more and more behind. Go back to basics. Make sure your child can add, subtract, multiply and divide before focusing on algebra.

5) There is only one right answer

Arts subjects are seen as being more creative because the is no single correct answer. In maths, there are often several ways of getting to the correct answer, e.g two ways to work out the area of a triangle are to  use a formula or to divide the triangle up and make it into a rectangle and then work out the area of that new shape. Try asking your child if they know “another” way to work out the answer to one of their homework questions.

6) Maths is a textbook/worksheet subject

Maths is a practical subject. Even basics such as counting and times tables are based on physical and real life concepts. Help your child learn to talk about maths by finding out how maths is used in history, art, geography and business.

7) You can’t revise for maths tests

Children know that 1 + 1 = 2 because they hear it so often, and they use that number fact several times a day. In the same way, the best way to revise for a maths test is to use those maths facts as much as possible.  Rebecca Zook shows how she got a 7th grader from  “I don’t get it” to getting 100 percents by practising in different ways.


8) You’ll never use this stuff again

There are hundreds of jobs and careers that use maths on a daily basis, there are some seriously cool careers that need maths but even if your child doesn’t go on to choose one of those careers, wouldn’t you rather they were able to handle their own finances without getting ripped off (compound interest is a high school topic)

9) Girls aren’t as good at maths as boys

In fact in many countries, including the UK, maths achievement up to the age of 16 is higher in girls. As well as putting girls off taking maths and science courses for further studies, this myth also makes boys feel as though they “should” be good at maths. Make sure that you’re not using gender bias when talking to your child about maths.

Agree with me on these? Then click “like” and share this post with your friends on Facebook!

Caroline Mukisa
About The Author: Caroline Mukisa is the founder of Maths Insider. A Cambridge University educated math teacher, she's been involved in math education for over 20 years as a teacher, tutor, Kumon instructor, Thinkster Math instructor and math ed blogger. She is the author of the insanely helpful ebook "The Ultimate Kumon Review" and insanely useful website "31 Days to Faster Times Tables" You can follow her math tips on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @mathsinsider

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

7 thoughts on “9 Maths Myths That Are Killing Your Child’s Achievement

  1. #3 really is important. Everyone just thinks they can use a calculator later in life. But the mental dexterity you train by doing math in your head and with pen and paper is a lifelong positive skill. I can’t believe how many poor adults can’t even calculate tips for a bill. Keep up the good work!

    • Hi John,

      Thanks for your comment John! You’re completely right that it’s important to “train” your mathematical brain by practising mental maths. It’s similar to the fact that reading lots improves vocabulary and exercising improves fitness!

  2. Caroline, I love this list! These are really toxic ideas that are ingrained in our culture. I love how you wreck them with your wrecking ball!

    I think #1 might be the most subtle. Anything is hard if you are not prepared. Confidence comes from the experience of mastery — and we achieve mastery by learning one little piece at a time, increment by increment.

    When we’re in the sweet spot between boredom (too easy) and anxiety (too hard), being stretched just the right amount, it can feel like math isn’t hard at all. But learning to put yourself in the sweet spot can be a skill in and of itself!

    (PS thanks for the shout-out! :)

    • Hi Rebecca,

      Oh, I do like your statement:

      Confidence comes from the experience of mastery

      It’s so important for all of us to to keep practising to gain confidence and mastery. Practise doesn’t need to be boring – I love the ideas you had in your “7th grade” article which show that varying the ways of practising maths is a great way to reach that sweet spot!

  3. #9 is my favorite. Although I wonder if people really say this anymore. I’ve never heard it other than in the context of “Girls are told that they aren’t good at math.”

    Really? Who tells them?

    I think that nobody says this anymore, but we’re still fighting it.

    Like people fighting a war that’s been over for years.

  4. Most of these aren’t necessarily “myths”.

    As for 5), there being more than one way to solve a math problem doesn’t mean that there actually is more than one right answer.

  5. I cannot agree more! I was a child that was told “don’t worry I wasn’t good at maths either” and that “girls are just not good at math!”. As a parent and teacher, basic facts maths is a real concern. This is the foundation on which all other maths is built so our children are supposed to be so good at it- that they can give us the answer within 3 seconds!

    If your child is struggling with math, particularly basic facts (timestables, division, addition, subtraction), I provide 10-15 minute practice sheets a day! Try a free trial on http://www.stayontrack.co.nz today :) Let me know what you think!

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