Like most Mathematics teachers, I cringe when I hear a parent say “It’s OK, I wasn’t good at Maths”. They are really saying that it is OK if their son or daughter doesn’t succeed in Maths.

This excellent article titled “Dispelling the Math Myths” gives an example where a group of people are in a restaurant trying to determine how much each person owes on the bill. People are happy to pass the bill on saying “I’m no good at Maths”. This seems to be socially acceptable and yet no one would dare say “I’m no good at reading or I can’t read”.

The article goes on to discuss the following Myths:

1. There is one way to solve a problem.

2. You need a ‘math gene’ or dominance of your left brain to be successful at math.

3. Children don’t learn the basics anymore because of a reliance on calculators and computers.

4. You need to memorize a lot of facts, rules and formulas to be good at math.

5. Keep giving more drill and repetition questions until children get it!

Of course Math teachers know that these statements are all false (I hope), but what about parents and students? Plenty of material for a Maths Family night here.

Lisa Sandberg, director of Mathematics and Science, Educational Support Services for the Tehama County Department of Education, reinforces this topic with her article Stop saying I am bad at Math.

Here is a blog post on this topic from a parent who says:

MY SON IS FAILING EVERYDAY MATHEMATICS AND I’M NOT EVEN TAKING IT, ANYMORE!

The point to all this is that we must make a bigger effort to change peoples attitudes towards math. Everyone can be “good” at Math and it can be interesting and fun. Just ask my sister Dianne who is busy exercising the left side of her brain with her new Nintendo DS which she got for Christmas. She now proudly beats her brother at arithmetic and other mathematical games!

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I have been teaching Mathematics in Victorian secondary schools for 30 years. I use the www to make my maths lessons better. I hope this blog will give other teachers some ideas to try in their own classes.

My mother said that to my oldest daughter when she was in fourth grade and having a lot of problems with fractions. I was horrified! Then, my daughter just parroted back the same thing. So, I made it my mission to convince my daughter that she WAS good at math and that she LOVED math. I did this by convincing her that I LOVE MATH – even though I really did not, but warmed up to it. Now, she wants to be a math teacher.

Great story Maria! I hope that people will read this and change their attitudes or at least be very careful with their choice of words. Thanks for your comment – Jeff.

I think you carried the comment a bit far by saying I am beating you at mathematical games but I think the Nintendo DS has improved my times tables a little. I never did memorise them all when at school which has always annoyed me because it does slow me down a little when I have to do a calculation. I love the Math calculation game the best of all in the ‘Brain Trainer’ program and it has been a fun way to memorise my tables. Pretty proud of my 18sec record.

Always love a challenge especially against my big brother.