November 14th, 2013

teacher“To be or not to be a math person? That is the question.” Actually, the real question most people ask themselves as a young child is, “How can I get out of math so I never have to look at a quadratic equation again?” Being labeled a math person in today’s society can have some backlash – either you’re smart, or you’re not. End of story.

An article by Miles Kimball and Noah Smith from The Atlantic summarizes the idea of ‘being bad at math.’ Students are expected to take a few initial exams the first few days of math class. Some students pass with flying colors and most students get an average C or B. The students who pass with flying colors are typically very well-prepared because they have parents or support systems drilling math concepts into their brains from a very young age. The students who receive average scores compare their skill levels to those of the prepared students and automatically feel like failures and deem themselves “not a math person.” These students  no longer put forth effort, eventually falling farther and farther behind.

From a math teacher’s perspective, it’s not entirely the student’s fault. When parents or other close adults express they are bad at math, children catch on and have a predisposed idea that they too are bad at math. As adults, we need to be aware of the things we say around children, we may be inherently restricting their mindset and skills without even realizing it.

Math takes hard work to learn, just like any new subject. It’s not always about number crunching to find the exact solutions. Sure, textbook math is very black and white, but Henderson International School strives for more. We develop students’ skills to think through complex problems, deal with logical patterns, reflect critically and use high order reasoning to help prepare them for the complexities of their future.

Some students may bad-mouth math and complain about using it their future. “When will I ever use this in real life!?” A math person obviously won’t ask themselves that question nearly as often as a non-math person. I am confident as students grow older they will understand there may be one, two or no real solutions to a given complex problem, there may even be two imaginary solutions. It’s going to take creativity and critical problem solving skills to find whatever solution it may be. Let’s not allow ourselves or our children to label themselves as one type of person or another, instead, let’s strive to improve our skills, knowing they will come in handy one day – directly or indirectly.

By, Tara Cadena – HIS Math Instructor


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