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.