Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad …MATH?

When I suggested to my publisher that Max (MAX’S WORDS, MAX’S DRAGON, MAX’S CASTLE) transition from words to numbers they were elated. But when I wanted to call my new book MAX’S MATH the editorial staff and marketing department issued a collective cringe. They were intimidated by the word MATH. Coming from a place of literary bias I could see why “math” might be outside of the comfort zone for some editors. But even the sales department were concerned that people would shy away from buying a book with what appeared to be a dirty four letter word in the title.


So who’s afraid of the big bad math? Apparently, according to studies, between 60-90 percent of Americans suffer from math anxiety—a condition characterized by sweaty palms, racing heart, negative thoughts, feelings of defeat and avoidance, and ultimately, poor performance. And they are not just children and young people.

[Anxiety Attack; Conquering the Fear of Math, Dr. Rose Vucovic and Rachel Harari, Schoolbook, March 2013].


Math phobia is a collective contagion in our society. And like all forms of collective contagion it is unconsciously transmitted among societies’ members including educators, parents, and other students. While verbal illiteracy is a social stigma, the widespread nature of math phobia makes numerical illiteracy acceptable. But there is no scientific foundation for this.


Research suggests that we are all born hardwired to do math. Math has a lot going for it. Apart from its obvious practical applications, it provides structure, rules, boundaries. And we can all benefit from a little more intimacy with these concepts in our daily lives.


So it’s time we banish the anxiety around the subject of math, and confront our fears. That translates into engaging with those fears by building an awareness early on of how math concepts surround us. We need to encourage children to involve themselves in math activities on a daily basis. Simply stated, we need to change our beliefs about math. We live in a society where math and technology are increasingly important. And as Dr. Vucovic says, “We all have a a role to play in turning math into the one four-letter word children use loudly and proudly.”


*MAX’S MATH will be on the bookshelves on March 10, 2015.


Advance Reviews for MAX’S MATH


“Max is back in the fourth in his eponymous series of concept books . . . Kulikov’s rich, textured paintings are filled with details that extend the story and invite young mathematicians to stop and examine Max’s fantastic world . . . Bold. MAXimum fun!” – Kirkus Reviews


“In the fourth story about Max and his two brothers, numbers and shapes take center stage instead of words.” – School Library Journal


“Kulikov’s visual flights of fancy will set readers’ imaginations soaring as Banks slyly introduces a bevy of math concepts.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED