Money mindset

Parents, please don’t say you’re bad at math

Awhile back I wrote about being bad with money. My argument was that no one is bad with money — if you want to learn and get better, you CAN do it.

Today I want to talk about something similar — being bad at math.

Think about this — if you believe that you don’t like or aren’t good at math, what are the chances you’ll like and be good at personal finance?

And the same with your kids. If they hear you say this or worse, they say it themselves, how likely is it that they’ll be rockstars with their money later in life? I’d say slim.

Here are three questions to consider.

Are you labeling yourself?

There’s a popular opinion that some people are math people and some people aren’t. However, this isn’t true. There’s actually no such thing as a math person.

The Atlantic has a great article about the myth of being bad at math. Basic ability in math isn’t actually about good genes, but hard work.

Do you think it’s exclusive?

Are you a writer or an artist? Do you think that since you’re in a creative profession that you can’t like math? Or that if you like math, you must not be that creative?

I call BS.

According to, “research has shown that abilities in subjects such as math are strongest when both halves of the brain work together.”

Math isn’t just for the nerdy kids.

What does it do to your kids to hear you say that?

Kids take a lot of cues from their parents, and the Washington Post wants you to stop spreading math anxiety to your kids.

Why do smart people enjoy saying that they are bad at math? Few people would consider proudly announcing that they are bad at writing or reading… We are perpetuating damaging myths by telling ourselves a few untruths: math is inherently hard, only geniuses understand it, we never liked math in the first place and nobody needs math anyway… You do not need an innate mathematical ability in order to solve mathematical problems. Rather, what is required is perseverance, a willingness to take risks and feeling safe to make mistakes.

Consider this

Kids may not like math because they haven’t mastered their multiplication tables. Not having this essential building block slows them down, making more advanced math difficult. They don’t like feeling like a failure, so they just say they don’t like or aren’t good at math.

Focusing on math may be MORE important than teaching your kids about personal finance. If they don’t have the math skills, the personal finance skills won’t come (or come as easily).

So, to recap:

  • Banish the negative thinking and talk. Change your tune and start talking positive.
  • Don’t label yourself. You CAN be good at math.
  • It’s not either/or. You can be a great writer or artist AND good at math.
  • Realize you’re spreading negative stereotypes to your kids when you talk a certain way.
  • Help your kids with their math skills.

You can do it. I believe in you.

2 replies on “Parents, please don’t say you’re bad at math”

I think this is so important for every area of life! Labeling ourselves and our kids is dangerous. If you keep saying it, it will become true and you’ll use it as a crutch, in my opinion. We try to use more positive language for ourselves and our kids. We also focus on our kids’ strengths, instead of only pointing out their weaknesses that need improvement.

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