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Causes & Remedies for Math Phobia

8 mins read


  • What is math phobia?
  • Math can be fun
  • Symptoms of math phobia
  • Causes and remedies for the fear of math.

Ever heard of this word – Arithmophobia? It is the fear of numbers. It may sound unusual for some.

However, for many students out there, this is a real issue. The term arithmophobia is sometimes interchangeably called numerophobia.

Arithmophobia or numerophobia, as it is sometimes called, is the fear of all numbers or can even mean the fear of specific numbers.

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This phobia is an anxiety disorder. It can affect a person’s ability to do mathematic calculations and thereby result in poor academic performance.

This fear of math is a rampant issue amongst students. Math phobia is not an isolated or stray issue here and there. Many students nowadays have this fear.

Various studies and research articles show that math anxiety prevents students from learning new concepts in the subjects.

Research conducted and published in the Journal of Psychology by the American Psychological Association stated that math anxiety may interfere with learning novel math concepts and not only with the recall of already mastered contents in testing situations.

Math anxiety may reduce the acquisition of novel math knowledge in very young children, potentially leading to cumulative gaps in math proficiency over time.

Though this math phobia or math anxiety is a major concern, it is also a well-known fact that there are many self-help methods to overcome this.

At times your fear may be unwarranted. There may be many causes or reasons behind your math phobia, but with the right kind of solutions, you may be able to overcome this fear.

Before we look in-depth into the causes of the fear of math and its possible self-help remedies, let’s look at some interesting facts about maths from around the world.

On a lighter note, math can be fun and interesting. Here is some easy reading on math to dispel your fear of math.

But, did you know why 14th March is declared as International Day of Mathematics?

It is regarded so because 14 March (3/14- i.e., the 14th day of the third month) is celebrated as Pi Day because π. Pi is one of the world’s most widely-known mathematical constants and can be rounded to 3.14.

It was first used by an American Physical Chemist, Gilbert Newton Lewis to describe the time it takes light to travel one centimetre in a vacuum i.e., approximately 33.3564 picoseconds (one trillionth of a second).

  • Mystery does not only mean a series of Agatha Christie books. There is a mystery in math too. The case of the mysterious number 6174.

Take any four-digit number, in which none of the numbers are repeated. Subtract the smallest possible number from the greatest possible number from these four digits.

For example. Take the four-digit number 9876. Now form the smallest possible number and subtract it from the greatest possible number


Now follow the process using the result of the above calculation.


Repeat the process


Now you have arrived at the mystery point. Your answer will always be 6174 from now on. Take a look


We reached 6174 yet again.

See, isn’t math fascinating? It’s not about reeling numbers and large calculations. Math can be entertaining and extremely enjoyable.

Symptoms of Math Phobia

Although math anxiety symptoms can manifest in different ways. Typically there are four types of symptoms that are usually common for most students suffering from math phobia.

  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Lack of confidence
  • Paranoia
  • Lack of participation

All these math phobia symptoms or even any one of these symptoms may manifest in a student. More so, the level or degree of the symptoms may vary from person to person.

The trick is to identify the particular cause and device ways of how to overcome math phobia.

Below we have come up with the possible causes of mathematics phobia and its remedies. Let’s take a look.

Math Phobia Causes and Remedies

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1. Hype Created

One of the main causes of mathematics phobia is the hype generated around the subject. Every day you hear your parents, teachers, and other scholars stressing the importance of maths.

Everyone around you speaks of how you can’t do anything without maths and that it is needed in every sphere of your life.

Yes, maths is an important subject no doubt. It is needed throughout your life, but this undue importance to it is unjustifiable.

This creates a disproportionate aura around the subject. It creates fear and panic even before students are able to comprehend the basics of the subject.

2. Parental Pressure

Many times, students require help to learn mathematics from an experienced person like teachers, tutors, or parents. These experienced instructors know the mathematical concepts extremely well.

However, your inability to comprehend the subject in the first attempt makes it incomprehensible for the tutors. This leads to admonishment and yelling by the tutors which in turn results in panicking students.

The fear sets in for students even before the concept is learned. This one another reason why students fear mathematics.

3. Incorrect Instruction Method

Mathematics is an interesting subject. The concepts in Maths can be taught in innumerable ways.

The problem faced by many students today is the fact that some educators strictly follow the textbook type of instruction.

This makes math boring and monotonous which is otherwise a fascinating and engrossing subject.


4. Exams Exams Exams!

The very word exam creates fear and anxiety amongst students and parents. The fear of failure and public ridicule are the main causes of math phobia.

Some students have varied exam fears like unable to complete a paper or fear of not knowing an answer. For students, the fear of exams is a pressing concern.

Time constraints in an examination increases the fear of math in students. Students being unable to complete a paper on time is not an uncommon occurrence.

Many students are unable to complete writing examination papers in the limited time provided. Math requires thinking, working out and analytical skills.

These skills may have a lower or faster reaction time in certain students. Students who have a slow reaction time, may fear the ability to complete the paper resulting in the fear of mathematics.

5. Only One Answer

In math, there can only be one answer and it has to be the right one. Mathematics is a subject that has only one conclusive answer.

However, the methods to arrive at that one conclusive answer can be many. The steps to achieve the answer is actually what is the interesting part about maths.

Sadly, this is the part that tutors and instructors ignore today. Teachers today look at the final answer only, ignoring the steps involved in mathematics.

This dampens the spirits of students who use interesting trial and error methods to arrive at an answer.

These are some of the causes of the rising fear of math amongst students. However, as the saying goes “Every problem has a solution, you just need to discover it.”

It’s time to break the chains of fear and discover your personal solutions to overcome your math anxiety.

6. Fear of Public Embarrassment

One of the reasons why students fear mathematics is because of the fear of public embarrassment incase of poor performance in the math examination.

Mathematics is considered an important subject because of its value. Many professional courses demand the inclusion of mathematics in its curriculum, in one form or the other.

It could take the form of statistics, accountancy or even basic mathematics. General public is of the opinion that if you are weak in math, you may not do well in your career.

That is why students fear mathematics. With so much weightage given to math, the fear of math may increase in students who are weak in the subject.

Public admonishment and ridicule is one of the reasons why students fear mathematics.

9 Possible Remedies to Overcome Fear of Math

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1. Write Down Your Fears

One of the best methods how to overcome the fear of math is to write down your fear. Note it down in a diary.

A research paper published in the National Library of Medicine concluded that writing down your fear before facing them, is a method of tackling your fears.

The study tested the effectiveness of a short expressive writing intervention that has been shown to reduce intrusive anxiety thoughts and improve working memory availability.

Expressive writing boosts the performance of anxious students in math-testing situations.

2. Breathing Exercise

Doing deep breathing exercises, help to overcome the fear of math.

Psychologists examined that participants who performed short term breathing exercises before a mathematical pressure test performed better than those who did not do the breathing exercises.

The result of the experiment provided insights into the suggestion that focused breathing exercises can be a useful, practical tool for addressing the negative impacts of math anxiety.

The breathing exercises increased calmness and enhanced performance on the arithmetic test.

3. Face Your Fears

Believe in yourself and conquer all your fears. Do the thing that you fear the most and continue to face it.

This is the only sure way of overcoming it. Remember Fear stands for two things Face Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise. The choice is yours.

4. Exams Are Not the End-All of Everything

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Always remember that tests and exam results are not the end of everything. Prepare yourself to learn math so that you can face real-world problems. Use this as an encouragement and one of the methods of how to overcome math fear.

5. Math Is Just Another Form of Art

Think of math as just another form of art. Like how you would approach music or an art class.

Learn the basics of math like it were a song or a craft. At the end of it all, math can be music to the ears and a song on your lips.

6. Learn Math Through the Real World

Learning math practically is one of the best methods to overcome your math phobia. Sometimes solving real-world problems helps.

Like calculating the distance between your home and school or the change you need to get back from the shopkeeper.

These real-world problems come from daily life experiences. Solving these problems encourages students to overcome math phobia.

7. Ask Questions

Clearing your doubts and asking questions to the teachers is the first step. If you do not understand a mathematical expression, it is advisable to request your teacher to explain the concept again.

Clearing your doubts with the teacher makes you able to understand the concept better, thus eliminating the fear of not knowing.

8. Work with Math Like You Eat Your Food.

Don’t you eat every day? Likewise, workout math every day. Math is not something that can be mastered in a day or learned last minute.

Math is a concept that is conquered over time. Working out math problems every day ensures that you grasp the techniques of math surely and steadily.

Practicing math on a daily basis is another way of how to overcome math fear. It is a given fact that practice makes man perfect.

So is the case with practicing mathematics. Working out different problems from different books exposes you to all possible types of questions that may appear for an examination. Thus, making you more prepared.

9. Study with Friends

Another excellent method of overcoming your fear of math is to plan your math study schedule with friends.

Sometimes healthy peer competition can change your attitude to the subject. Many times, a friend can do what a teacher or parent cannot.

10. Seek Help from A Professional Tutor

Apart from studying with friends and clearing doubts with your college or school teacher, it is also a good idea to seek help from a professional tutor.

The main advantage of getting help from a tuition teacher is that this tutor can teach you math hacks and shortcut methods that may not have been taught in school by your teachers.

Schools are meant to follow a particular pattern. These patterns may not include mathematical hacks that help you solve math problems quickly.

However, a tutor might just be able to help you with that. Also tutors give you extra practice and individual attention. This is one of the best ways to overcome math phobia.


Last but not least, talk. It is important to talk about your fears to your friends, family, and or teachers. Getting help from those around you can help you overcome your fears.

In conclusion, we can safely say that math is an engrossing, captivating, and fun subject. Your math phobia is a thing of the past. You are rearing and ready to take on math and conquer the subject.

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