If math was your absolute favorite pastime, you aced every math test you’ve ever taken, and you jumped for joy at the sight of an algebraic equation, you probably wouldn’t be on this website. So since you are, chances are math has not always been easy for you. Fortunately, improving your math skills can be done, and with a positive attitude, practice and a little help from people who DO truly love math, you can change the way you think about math, which in turn will change the way you succeed in math. Here are 5 things to stop telling yourself, RIGHT NOW:
1. I’m not smart enough for math– Some people believe that people who understand math are smarter than those who don’t, that the ability to understand math and numbers is some sort of superpower. However, being strong in mathematics is just as impressive and important as being strong in music or dance or foreign language. Struggling with math is just the same as struggling with photography or theatre or swimming. It is important to remember that understanding math is a skill, not a superpower, and can be strengthened and fine-tuned by anyone who puts in the work.
2. I have a horrible memory– If you can’t remember anything else in this article, remember this: math is not all about memorization. Sure, memorizing big families and formulas can help you solve math problems faster, but actually understanding the concepts and the WHY behind the math will help you become a successful mathematician. Ask questions and have teachers/parent/tutors explain it until it makes sense to you, and you don’t need a memory like a steel trap to recall the information
3. I have to use shortcuts, so I’m not good enough– Some people count on their fingers, some use rhymes and songs they learned in grade school, others tap tap tap away on their calculators. Using tools or tricks to help you find the answer is not cheating, is not a sign of weakness, and does not mean you are any less capable to ace a math test than someone who counts in their head (and who knows, maybe they are counting on their toes and you just can’t see)
4. I’m a girl, girls aren’t good at math– We all sincerely hope nobody is really saying this to themselves, but just in case: IT’S NOT TRUE! Men and women are very different, and their brains work in different ways. This does not mean women can’t be top of their class in math. In some cultures, there is a subconscious message to women that they shouldn’t be/ aren’t interested in math related careers. It is important for women to remember that they can do anything a man can do and not let gender stereotypes prevent them from trying, engaging and asking questions in math class.
5. I’m never going to use this– Fact: There will be times in math class when you would bet your last dollar that you’ll never have to use this 6 page long equation in the real world. You’re probably right. However, a lot of the learning that is happening when you’re doing complex math problems is not the problem at all. It is fine-tuning your listening, organization and time management skills. It is helping your concentration, problem solving and critical thinking skills. Almost every career path uses some sort of math, so it is important to remember that when you’re about to thaw down your pencil and give up. Your dream career may not require you to know the quadratic formula, but it may require you to have the ability to recognize patterns, or use estimation or measurement.
The first step in improving your math skills is improving your attitude and inner dialogue. When you stop believing these five math myths, you give yourself the confidence you need to dive a little deeper into your math class, ask more questions, study a little harder and do whatever it takes to become the mathematician you know you can be.