Saturday, September 22, 2012

"I cannot do math" is taught.....

So today I helped a friend with some math.  As non-traditional college student it has been awhile and rust is understandable.  But the person's feeling that "They're no good at math" was surely taught as clearly as any topic in Algebra.   

This myth , of people being incapable of math, is propogated by parents (who say "I was never good at math" meaning their kids should not be expected to learn), teachers (some who say "some students just don't get it") and our culture in general which supports the idea that some don't get math.

Lets pose the situation where little Johnny cannot read, do we simply say he cannot get it? No, we remediate and push and challenge, we know it is a skill that is needed to succeed.  Well guess what, the world has changed and the "good jobs" require abstract thinking and problem solving --- math.

Going back to little Johnny we as a society realize and accept that students learn at different paces -- having multiple reading groups in elementary school and middle school.  Yet there is a thought that they should all learn math at the same pace?  Where's the logic in this?

As teachers and people who care about youth and people who care about the USA (it's the economy, it's prosperity, it's position in the world) we need to stop the math excuses.  We need to realize that students learn at different paces AND THAT'S OK!  We need to get the concepts to our students and not let the idea they cannot learn math settled into a student's psyche.

We also must speak truths -- some students see math faster and/or better.  Just like some students play an instrument more quickly or run faster.  But all students can pick up concepts and that message needs to be heard over and over until a cultural change starts in our country.  Because we cannot allow  "I can't do math" to be acceptable -- it will not lead to the American dream -- it will not lead to a better life for that student.  The world economy has changed the rules and we must change.  Math is hard but it is now a prerequiste for a large percentage of high standard of living work.

Everyone can do math, the paces are different.  It is simply whether a student shuts down and quits that dooms him/her to failure.  I, for one, will not quit on them or every let them say "I am no good at math" -- I always say you can be, but the world is unfair and you will have to work harder than most of the other students;  but you will get it!  And if they don't quit they do.....