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Math Geniuses Don’t Exist.

Grantly
October 15, 2019
For many students, math (or another “math-heavy field” like computer science, physics, accounting, economics etc.) can be the most intimidating subject in school.

For many students, math (or another “math-heavy field” like computer science, physics, accounting, economics etc.) can be the most intimidating subject in school. Statements like “I’m not some math genius” or “I can’t possibly take that class” can be heard echoing down high school and college hallways alike, when math class is mentioned. 

“I can’t possibly take that class”

Parents and students typically attribute these mathematical challenges to “not being a math person” or “the class being just too hard”. After tutoring countless students in math, physics, economics, statistics and other quantitative classes that elicit stress in those with “numerical anxiety”, at GRANITE we think something different is going on. 

Math is different from history or english largely in the way it is expressed.

Math is different from history or english largely in the way it is expressed. English and history use words. While words can be long and complicated, ultimately they are still words. Words are comfortable; we use them to text our friends, read our favorite blogs, and follow the subtitles in foreign films. Accordingly, when an english or history teacher gives us a uniquely hard article, primary source, or novel, we can feel reassured that at the end of the day this challenging academic obstacle is still made up of words. Math by contrast is not built on words but on “notation”: symbols used to count, categorize, and estimate.

Words are comfortable; we use them to text our friends, read our favorite blogs, and follow the subtitles in foreign films.

It is not uncommon for a student to come across a math problem and leave the question blank, in spite of having all the skills needed. When reviewing the problem, the student will often say “I didn’t know that symbol, so I panicked and just skipped it”. This, of course, is not the fault of the student at all. Our mainstream cultural dialogue and academic systems consistently reinforce the idea that math is something extremely difficult reserved for “math geniuses”, and the resulting panic students feel is just a self fulfilling prophecy. 

…consistently reinforce the idea that math is something extremely difficult rese