This week, I read a post titled “The Secret Question (Are We Actually Good at Math?)”. I follow a math blog on my personal tumblr, and he posts some pretty interesting and cool things. So, after an initial search of many things that didn’t catch my eye, I decided to scroll through his blog. I clicked around and found a quote that caught my eye.
“Students are not allowed to make disparaging comments about themselves or their mathematical ability, at any time, for any reason. Here are example statements that are now banned, along with acceptable replacement phrases.
– I can’t do this –> I am still learning how to do this.
– That was stupid –> That was a productive mistake.
– This is impossible –> There is something interesting and subtle in this problem.
– I’m an idiot –> This is going to take careful thought.
– I’ll never understand this –> This might take me a long time and a lot of work to figure out.
– This is terrible –> I think I’ve done something incorrectly, let me check it again.
Please keep in mind the article we read by Carol Dweck. The banned phrases represent having a fixed view of your own intelligence, which does not reflect the reality that you are all capable of dynamic, continued learning. The suggested replacement phrases support and represent having a growth mindset regarding your abilities and your capacity for improvement.”
After seeing this quote, I was instantly curious and clicked the link to the article. The whole article addresses the fact that as mathematicians, some of us believe that we don’t deserve to be where we are. That whole mind-set is conditioned, and I like that someone put that into a cohesive piece. It’s well worth a read. I also think it would be a great idea to start off every year with these phrases and an intervention of sorts. We are not idiots, and I think that now is the time we start embracing that fact if we haven’t already. Math like a sport. You need to practice to get better, but the fun is in playing the game. The best part is that you don’t have to be born to play, you can still participate.
I commented my thanks to the author for writing the piece and shared my own experience with my students and how I always tell them that they are not bad at math. They are young children and their first thoughts shouldn’t be that they are bad at math. Instead, they should have the idea that math is fun and that it is for everyone.
Here is the link to the blog post: