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A surprisingly large number of children and adults, including many business people, have a fear of numbers. When they have to analyze budget figures or even calculate a restaurant tip, they react with confusion or panic.

Symptoms of adult math anxiety: The first symptom is going blank when figures are discussed. This is a common problem. Second symptom: Blurring together numbers printed on a page. Third most important problem is forgetting basic mathematical procedures.

Typical results: Avoiding tasks or even entire fields of endeavor that depend on math. Buck-passing or stalling on math-dependent decisions. Failing to question suspicious numbers.

To solve the problem: Dispel myths that math is a rigid discipline or that some people just naturally lack mathematical ability. Reality: In many cases, approximate figures will do. Even those not well schooled in math can catch up quickly with proper instruction.


If you have children, start to teach them math as soon as they start talking even if you fear math. This will reduce your fear of math and your children's fear as they get older. Teach your kids how to count money at an early age.

The best time to do math problems is in the morning, since your mind is clear and fresh and your mind is more stable to think.

Always write down figures when they come up in discussions. Try to arrange figures from the lowest numbers to the highest numbers.

Ask questions if something is unclear. (If others are silent, chances are they are confused, too.) Make sure that you understand what is being explained.

Estimate and round off numbers whenever possible. Try doing this everyday, so you can get used to doing this.

Work on math problems alone whenever possible. Review the basics that are vital in business: decimals, fractions, and percentages. A good review is quick Arithmetic, by R.A and M.J Carman (John Wiley & Sons).

These books are also very useful for math-anxious: Overcoming Math Anxiety, by Shelia Tobias (Houhjton Mifflin) an Mind over Math, by Dr. Stanley Kogelman and Dr. Joseph Warren (McGraw-Hill).