# General Discussion

Related: Editorials & Other Articles, Issue Forums, Alliance Forums, Region Forums# Stop telling kids you’re bad at math. You are spreading math anxiety ‘like a virus.’

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/04/25/stop-telling-kids-youre-bad-at-math-you-are-spreading-math-anxiety-like-a-virus/*“How was skiing?” I asked my 14-year old daughter as she hauled her boot bag into the car. “Well, the ratio of snow to ground was definitely low,” she replied, adding that she had tried to figure the ratio of snow-to-ground during practice but had received only mystified looks. “Stop the math!” demanded a coach. “You are confusing us!”*

Why do smart people enjoy saying that they are bad at math? Few people would consider proudly announcing that they are bad at writing or reading. Our country’s communal math hatred may seem rather innocuous, but a more critical factor is at stake: we are passing on from generation to generation the phobia for mathematics and with that are priming our children for mathematical anxiety. As a result, too many of us have lost the ability to examine a real-world problem, translate it into numbers, solve the problem and interpret the solution.

Mathematics surrounds us, yet we have become accustomed to avoiding numerical thinking at all costs. There is no doubt that bad high school teaching and confusing textbooks are partly to blame. But a more pernicious habit does the most damage. We are perpetuating damaging myths by telling ourselves a few untruths: math is inherently hard, only geniuses understand it, we never liked math in the first place and nobody needs math anyway.

Often adults are well-meaning when telling children about their own math phobia: after all, won’t it make the children feel better if they know that others feel that way as well? Research shows the answer is a resounding “no.”

..."

Why do smart people enjoy saying that they are bad at math? Few people would consider proudly announcing that they are bad at writing or reading. Our country’s communal math hatred may seem rather innocuous, but a more critical factor is at stake: we are passing on from generation to generation the phobia for mathematics and with that are priming our children for mathematical anxiety. As a result, too many of us have lost the ability to examine a real-world problem, translate it into numbers, solve the problem and interpret the solution.

Mathematics surrounds us, yet we have become accustomed to avoiding numerical thinking at all costs. There is no doubt that bad high school teaching and confusing textbooks are partly to blame. But a more pernicious habit does the most damage. We are perpetuating damaging myths by telling ourselves a few untruths: math is inherently hard, only geniuses understand it, we never liked math in the first place and nobody needs math anyway.

Often adults are well-meaning when telling children about their own math phobia: after all, won’t it make the children feel better if they know that others feel that way as well? Research shows the answer is a resounding “no.”

..."

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Having recently been privy to a couple of anecdotes about some middle-school girls picking on other middle-school girls for liking math (Yes, I know. Typical.), this seems all the more prescient.

**18 replies**= new reply since forum marked as read

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#### whatthehey

(3,660 posts)I am in meetings regularly where just about everyone is either an engineer, an MBA or both. At some point then they simply must have had pretty solid mastery of math to at least calculus level. But I've lost count of the times I've had to go over simple concepts like correlation or standard deviation to explain issues to them. It seems like once outside the classroom, even the engineers forget about and dismiss any math not directly tied to their specialty, which is a bit ironic because I stayed away from engineering because I couldn't handle the math myself.

#### HuckleB

(35,773 posts)Correlation vs. causation seems like it's not addressed, or something, for example.

#### TexasTowelie

(110,324 posts)They need to do away with words such as "problems", "exercises" and "homework" when taking math classes. Psychologically it stigmatizes students because of the negative connotations of those words. How many people want problems, who wants to exercise, and does anybody really want homework? It is much more pleasant to say let's play with numbers or shapes, let's learn some math tricks or how about taking a math adventure? It's much easier to motivate students when they believe they are having fun rather than scaring them with archaic terminology.

#### Donald Ian Rankin

(13,598 posts)When people promised me an adventure and what I got was problems, exercises and homework, I thought "do they really think I'm stupid?"

Being told that studying history was like being a detective was particularly annoying.

#### muriel_volestrangler

(100,976 posts)as you learned to distinguish your teachers' honesty from bullshit ...

#### TexasTowelie

(110,324 posts)The use of that terminology has to start at the beginning of the learning process and continued for years so the children don't actually realize what is happening until it's too late.

#### HuckleB

(35,773 posts)Kids are smart. They know better. Show them it can be fun, don't sell them toothpaste

#### Donald Ian Rankin

(13,598 posts)I'm a professional mathematician; I love doing maths.

But as a child, before I got to the bits of maths that I found fun, I had to learn to add, subtract, multiply and do at least a little division. And I found learning those extremely tedious, and I'm not sure there is a way to teach them that isn't.

Are there approaches to education that produce children capable of doing basic maths reliably, without forcing them through vast numbers of tedious repetitions of "add/subtract/multiply these two numbers"? I'm not convinced there are.

#### Jim Beard

(2,535 posts)It is another way of seeing the problem.

#### Albertoo

(2,016 posts)We cannot extrapolate the opinion of a subset to the whole population.

#### HuckleB

(35,773 posts)#### Jim Beard

(2,535 posts)why and how they can learn to enjoy it.

Not until way late in life did I finally heard an instructor say something that really changed my way of looking at a math problem.

That simple statement was this is the problem but we will give you CLUES to help you solve the problem. So simple but it was just something I could not connect.

Yes I am bad at math.

#### bhikkhu

(10,705 posts)everyone is bad at it anything they want to learn, until they learn it. Mostly it has always fallen on deaf ears, and they still repeat the "I'm bad at math", or talk about someone being "good" at math, like that person didn't even have to learn it. I don't know if it comes from the schools themselves or from other kids parroting their parents, but its completely the wrong approach to anything in life.

#### bigwillq

(72,790 posts)Math

#### HuckleB

(35,773 posts)Seriously.

#### trumad

(41,692 posts)I see 12 responses.