Math. The mere mention of the word conjures up nightmarish images and memories of complex equations, indecipherable formulas, horrific word problems, or perhaps the mother of all math nightmares… long division! This poses the question of why so many people loathe and fear math. How can it be that something so important, valuable, and useful (yes, useful!) causes so much upset stomach? The answer takes as many different forms as there are people, but the underlying principle is still the same: somewhere along the mathematical journey, something didn’t add up (pun intended). Then that idea was built upon with more difficult concepts. This layering of ideas continued, but the foundation was shaky. At some point, the structure collapsed, or could not be completed. But this does not mean that someone is incapable of learning math. It simply means that a certain concept or concepts were not grasped as they should have been, regardless of the cause. Often, returning to those concepts and mastering them unlocks the rest of the mathematical puzzle and begins to lay a solid foundation upon which to build.
As recently as one hundred years ago, students were required to memorize mathematical facts and perform difficult computations in their heads. Students today do the same sort of memorization without realizing it. They memorize phone number after phone number, locker combinations, web addresses, and countless lyrics to songs. Adults do this same type of memorization also. Memorization is not the problem! Focusing it in the right direction is! Learning math can be likened to weight-lifting: it takes concentrated effort and repetition to notice positive results. Someone who wants to build muscles cannot do so if they go to a gym once or twice a week, look at the weights, maybe lift one or two and then give up and say, “ It’s too hard! I can’t do it!” Math is the same. It takes consistent, concentrated effort on a daily basis (lots of practice!) to achieve positive results. Only this time, the muscles you are building are in your brain. (Your biceps too if your book is heavy!) So if you are struggling with math, or know someone who is, encourage them to keep practicing. Meet with their math teacher (or your own), or a knowledgeable tutor who can help identify weak spots so they can be strengthened. Once you recognize them, you most surely will find there are strengths present as well. Those will be the start of a solid foundation. And don’t think that you have to be young to learn math! Many adults who go back to school find that they can more readily comprehend mathematical concepts they struggled with in their youth.
So the next time you hear the word “math”, don’t roll your eyes and don’t stress. Take a deep breath, and remember that math is something that you CAN do!


Robert Liparulo said...

Hi Angie. Glad I found your blogs. Very interesting. Have you read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliners? It has a couple fascinating chapters on why Asians are better at math than the rest of the world. (Some of it has to do with the length of the sounds of their numbers and our ability to store only so many syllables in our short term memory; the logic of their numbering system: ten-two instead of twelve, for example; and the importance they put on math in early educations.Cool stuff.)

Hope you're well. Take care!

Angie Ruark said...

That is very interesting-- thanks for the lead I will definitely get a hold of that! Thanks for reading and leaving a comment!

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