Friday, December 2, 2016

Changing Math Attitudes

       I'm borrowing the title of a Facebook group to use as the title for this post.  The group called Changing Math Attitudes is composed of math teachers and other educators and (I suppose) other folks that seek to share experiences and expertise in the effort of helping students (and adults) to see mathematics as something beautiful, sensible, and doable by everyone.

       The first step in improving abilities in anything is to believe that you can do it.  We want students to understand that mathematics is not a secret code to which only a privileged few have access.  There is no "math brain".  Everyone can understand mathematics and it will take a group effort by many people in many circumstances to effectively change the view of mathematics that so many people hold.  This is the view that says "I'm not good at math."  (And so many people freely say this out loud when they would never say that they can't read or that they are bad at Science or History.

       I especially enjoy reading the posts from this group because they are generally politically agnostic.  It isn't a group that is pushing a political agenda one way or the other.  And this makes sense too because the "I'm bad at math." attitude is not coming from one group of people who members of any single political persuasion.  All sorts of people hold this view and so we are talking to all people when we say that we want to change attitudes about mathematics.

       Any math teacher will tell you that most of the students in their classes that struggle to understand the math would do so much better if they held the view that effort would lead to success; if they believed that getting the wrong answer doesn't mean that you are "dumb" but instead means that you've had a learning experience that can lead to better understanding.  If students can escape the Fixed Mindset that says "No amount of effort will lead to success.", then we know that we can help them to get to a point of better understanding.

       Attitude is everything.  Attitude determines the effort that students will put forth.  Attitude allows for a second try and a third try and a fourth try; or attitude gives permission to not try at all.  Attitude is the force that is stronger than caring adults.  Attitude shapes our views and ultimately shapes our destiny.  When our attitude tells us to give it a try, we are on our way to a world of opportunities.

Public Schools and Choice

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