Today’s blog post comes from Michelle Gnuschke, Zeno Program Manager, with another perspective on being a math person.

“I’m not a math person.” I said that for most of my life. While I knew early on that I was smart and learning new things came easily to me, I never felt that my aptitude applied to math. I just didn’t like it. Those math races my 3rd grade teacher used to make us do in front of the whole class made me so anxious I thought I might get sick. Math literally left a bad taste in my mouth! It wasn’t until I married a “math person” that I began to understand that there could be true joy in pursuit of solving problems.

Jump ahead 10 years to when own my children started coming to me to help them with their more complicated math homework. I felt justified telling them that I was not the math person in the family… their Dad carried those genes. But what kind of message was I sending to my boys? Women aren’t good at math? People are at the mercy of their genes when it came to math abilities? Math is only for some people? When I realized how that innocent statement might be interpreted, I knew I needed to shift my thinking. Before I could help my children succeed at math, I had to change the way I thought of and talked about math.

Our society has successfully embarked on a 70+ year campaign to make everyone understand the necessity of reading literacy. You would never hear an adult readily admit that they are “not a reading person”. But for some reason, our society does not place the same high expectations on math and science. It is socially acceptable to take a pass and leave the complicated math to someone else. I’m here to tell you that it is not going to be okay for the technological work force of the near future. We no longer have the luxury of not being a “math person”! We have to be conscious about giving everyone the tools and opportunities they need to be successful with math.

You may be guilty of my erroneous thinking about the Math-ers and the Math Not-ers. But it is not too late to change course. Here are some simple ways to start shifting negative math attitudes:

  • Always speak positively about math and point out how important it is to everyday life.
  • Let your student see you calculate costs, distances, times, etc. Model problem solving strategies as you find solutions for an obstacle in your day.
  • Make your math interactions together fun and confidence boosting.

Plenty of early, frequent, and positive math experiences can change a child’s math relationship for a lifetime. There is no such thing as math DNA. Everybody can be a “math person” with the right early experiences.

3 thoughts on “On [Not] Being a Math Person: Part 2”

  1. This is an important point! There are different brains out there and different perspectives… We can’t just give up! To be able to relate and understand our world, we need to come to grips with these ideas.. These perspectives. My husband and daughter are math whizzes…my son and are are smart but differently. Throughout school, My daughter believed she could wrestle with classes and succeed… She would talk with teachers after class and take notes she would refer to. My son and I just thought smartness was inherent and something you could use your wits or smile to get or not… Sort of fate. The logician vs the fatalist. There is more to include here, but once I realized the huge difference– that referring to notes and relying on formulas, etc.was ok and not cheating per se… I understood another world of thought. I was not dumb. I just misunderstood the perspective. That perspective can and should be taught and understood! As well as others. Literacy teaching is including this now–at least in the state of California! I am so excited! It is teaching how to read like a scientist, historian, mathematician as well as linguist!

  2. Nice reflection! What if you feel that you do not have Maths-DNA? Start reading from the beginning-Grade I. You will become an expert in Maths and your children will love such a teacher! Read and understand their books before teaching.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top