I live with my 9 year old cousin who dislikes and has been doing poorly in math. (New Canadian education system likes to have "no homework" because apparently this will be good and reduce stress in kids, but math like other skills requires practice)

He has written on an assignment answering what he wants to be (a scientist) while also declaring that he hates math.

He seems to think he knows the material (the grades beg to differ, especially at this level when there shouldn't be part marks), and claims he knows the technique but just makes mistakes. (Really at the elementary school level it's about both and the results for basic addition,subtraction, division and multiplication will be foundational moving forwards.)

How can one encourage him to stop whining about it and just grind it out to get better? He's getting additional practice now (as would be necessary to improve his grades) however how can one promote autonomy and try to get him to stop dragging his feet about it all the time?

Edit: 9 year old's parents were already on board with getting the kid more math practice. I was looking for any way to help make the kid less whiny about it to reduce what I perceive to be friction being generated in the household. (eg kid is whining, additionally kid won't independently practice meaning a parent gets stuck babysitting and whatnot)

3 Answers 3


I think at 9 years old there are still many years to come for him to study.

He won't start studying on his own and efficient by force. Please don't force him to study more than neccessary, a lot of children stop having fun in school altogether because they are being pressured too much. As long as he really understands the basics so he can catch up in the future he will be fine.

Try to show him the fun parts of being a "scientist" and try to give him something to learn in his spare time about his future dream job. Maybe you can visit a real lab together (they often have "open door" days).

It will maybe take some time, but he will observe that being a scientist includes math. And eventually he will start studying for his dream. OR he will change his dream.

9 years is still pretty young, just remember your childhold, are you now working in the job you wanted as a child? Were you always hard-working?

  • Edit: I forgot to mention one thing: grades don't matter at that age. Don't get hung up on them as long as he passes decently. It seems his other grades (other than math) are good so don't worry too much.
    – Pudora
    Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 9:33
  • I am definitely not a race car driver!
    – WRX
    Commented Jan 3, 2017 at 13:53

I think that as little homework as possible is a good thing in elementary school. I dislike what I called 'busy' work. Kids need to play and be active and schools do not provide enough of that, especially in coldest weather. My former school suggested that all students read for half an hour a day, watch TV news with their parents after Grade 4, and had projects for the families to work on once a term. The only homework was work not completed during class that the majority of students had completed within the time alloted.

There are lots of sports that use math -- hockey, basketball, skiing, lacrosse, and so on -- it isn't obvious math -- but is uses math. If you do any of these activities with your cousin, you can point out the math aspects of the sports.

You did not say if you are raising this child, how old you are or if the parents are in charge. If the parents are parenting and you are not, then that is their decision.

There are many games that encourage maths and sciences. Minecraft (Video-type game) I think is one. I have never seen it, so you'd have to check it out. Ticket to Ride/Catan, teach. There are dozens of websites that have math games. Yahtzee/Scrabble/Boggle all teach different skills. Word search and Sudoku get brains working. Meccanco teaches basic electrical and building skills.

Take your cousin to a science centre. Buy him books on science or take him to the Library.

Families are not always going to agree on what is best. You seem to think there is a hole in your cousin's education. With parental permission, why not try to fill it? Make it fun and interesting. Be encouraging. The best way to get a kid away from TV and video games is to DO something with them -- especially if that something is fun.

  • Minecraft is basically Lego with unlimited blocks, it has some math like features but those are more something for teens or adults (redstone).
    – Pudora
    Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 14:12
  • @GuestUserPokemon Thanks, I do have a friend whose 9/y/o loves it. But I do not know anything about it myself.
    – WRX
    Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 14:26

My 8 year old son also "hates math". However, we discovered accidentally that it is not math the activity that he hates, but math the school subject.

He loves doing the math, but not way it is taught or the boring repetitions. When he accidentally did a placement test one day, thinking it was a math game, he placed 2 to 3 entire grade levels above his curriculum level. He actually had to work out principles of math with fractions on his own to finish the test, and he enjoyed it.

Since he is homeschooled, we simply started working at that level.

Something else that came out of this was, instead of teaching "math", teach other stuff where math is necessary for him to achieve his goals. For example, playing D&D he has to quickly compute sums and differences in his head, start to weigh probabilities, and divide the loot amongst the players. Buiulding an obstacle course, he has to lean measurements and how to represent them on paper so we can price (more math) and buy the materials before we build it.

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