9 Picks for Kids Who Fear Algebra


Math Phobia can come from many sources. Maybe you were a product of a school that focused on memorizing facts, instead of understanding concepts. If you were like me – I was still counting with my fingers well into my 30s – you didn’t fare too well in that type of math class.

For some kids, their brains are wired to see the world in big pictures… literally. Most classes are taught in a linear way. You learn one idea first before you move on to learning the next idea. Visual-spatial learners, on the other hand, don’t tend to follow that line of thinking. Their approach to math is almost like jumping off a cliff and then wading through a mess to see how everything fits together.

Then, you have the bright kids who find certain subjects easy to learn – it’s just that math isn’t one of them. Since they’re not used to struggling to learn, they avoid it rather than facing the challenge.

Whatever the cause, bad math attitudes and avoidance from younger years can set the stage for endless battles when it comes time for learning algebra – especially if you’re trying to use a textbook like Saxon Math.

Have no fear, we’ve found some great books that will make learning algebra easier – maybe even downright enjoyable!

Alternative Algebra Textbooks

Teach Yourself VISUALLY Algebra
A textbook designed with the visual-spatial learner in mind that makes liberal use of color and illustration. The book reviews the various properties of numbers, as well as how to use powers and exponents, fractions, decimals and percentages, and square and cube roots. Work problems are included at the end of every chapter for basic skill review.

Maran Illustrated Effortless Algebra
If you know you need a refresher in basic math concepts, then this might be the best book for you. The full-color examples and clear, step-by-step instructions takes each topic slow. Page designs even have a Web 2.0 look to them, so it almost feels like you’re not reading a book.

Algebra Survival Guide: A Conversational Handbook for the Thoroughly Befuddled
A Parent’s Choice award winner, this book will not just talk you through algebra, it also gives you plenty of practice problems to work on. Cartoons add just a dose of humor to get you through the 12 chapters of topics, including: Properties, Sets of Numbers, Order of Operations, Absolute Value, Exponents, Radicals, Factoring, Cancelling, Solving Equations, and the Coordinate Plane.

Hot X: Algebra Exposed!
This book is written by actress and sassy math nerd Danica McKellar and geared for girls who are all about pop culture. Blending personality quizzes, reader polls, and boy-crazy confessionals, readers will also find out how to master algebra topics like square roots, polynomials, quadratic equations, word problems, and more. Don’t be fooled by the approach, this is sound math and the book is packed with relatable real-world examples and sample problems that include detailed solutions.

Real World Algebra
Using cartoons and drawings, Edward Zaccaro explains algebra in easy-to-understand language, covering everyday topics such as algebra and money, algebra and geometry, algebra and physics, algebra and levers and many more. The book is actually geared for younger kids who are advanced in math, but can be used with older kids. Chapter questions are broken down into easy, challenging, and “Einstein” level.

Classical Algebra: Its Nature, Origins, and Uses
Truly an alternative way to cover math with a child who loves to learn, but whose strengths and passions lie in reading and history. Classical Algebra provides a complete and contemporary perspective on classical polynomial algebra through the exploration of how it was developed through Ancient and Rennaissance times and how it exists today.

Painless Algebra
Part of educational publisher’s Barron’s Painless series. When you buy the ebook version you also have access to hundreds of hyperlinks that give you instant access to all sections of the book, and connects all Brain Ticklers to their answers. Each PAINLESS book also contains a link to an exclusive, free mobile app for your electronic device that has challenging quizzes and three arcade games.

Practical Algebra: A Self-Teaching Guide
If you’ve already tried learning algebra once before, this might be a good choice for your second go-around. The book designed to be self-teaching and includes problems and solutions.

Dr. Math Explains Algebra: Learning Algebra Is Easy! Just Ask Dr. Math!
Written by the authors of the popular online Math Forum (hosted by Drexel University), the book uses it’s Internet Q/A approach for explaining algebraic concepts. You’ll get lots of hints and shortcuts for learning algebra, but it’s not a complete course.

How are you teaching Algebra to your math-phobic kid?
Share your ideas below!



Alessa Giampaolo Keener, M.Ed. works with clients around the world in developing individualized learning plans that value the strengths and weaknesses of the whole child. While her focus has long been on the social-emotional needs of the gifted child, Alessa also works with governmental agencies in helping to meet the educational needs of children in foster care, as well as those involved in the juvenile justice system. Alessa lives in Maryland, where she homeschooled her kids into college. You can email Alessa at alessa.education (at) gmail.com