Why Anyone Can Excel at Math
As a career Math Coach to thousands of students and a former struggling math student myself, I know one thing for sure: most of us have been frustrated by learning math. Some of us know the fear and panic that math problems can provoke.
The pounding heart.
The blurred vision.
Even shortness of breath.
Unfortunately, what many kids learn from math class is that numbers are to be avoided. Struggling with math is a stigma that can erode confidence in one’s abilities, and even worse, raise doubts about one’s intelligence.
Sadly, not enough of us were provided with the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of math or even experiencing its true satisfaction, predictability, and the comfort that can even be found within its structure.
It’s time to end the stigma of math struggles and empower our children with a better system for learning math, so math can be appreciated, enjoyed and even celebrated. After all, numbers and words are the basis of our existence.
If we struggle with math, we automatically assume, “If I don’t get it, if I can’t do math, then it must be me. I’m not smart enough.” That is simply not true. It’s not your fault.
And if you are a parent, you must not blame your child… or compare them to others… or yourself. The truth is this:
"anyone can do math
given the right environment and the right instruction."
Poor performance is simply the result of poor instruction. Sadly, when someone is set up to fail, they lose confidence and hope. Struggling and unmotivated students are victims of their learning experience, not the result of genetics.
I know this, because I have proven it both as a student, and as a MathCodes math Coach.
When I was 14, I was a very quiet child. I’d immigrated to Canada at age six, but I still struggled with English. I was struggling to fit in, but I struggled with math even more.
In math class, I’d pretend to understand and follow along. I did this for years. I’d avoid attention at all costs. I’d gone through the wringer. Frustration. Anger. Fear. Shame. I almost gave up. I’d pass time by reading the posters and inspirational quotes hanging on the walls. But there was one by the great Albert Einstein I kept coming back to, which stood out the most,
“It’s not that I’m so smart.
It’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
For some reason, those words finally got under my skin. I was always asking myself, “If others can do math, why can’t I?” Was this really the reason? I started to think that if I let math beat me, I would never forgive myself, and that I would never become the person I wanted to be. So, I made up my mind, whatever it took, I would learn it. Luckily, I was stubborn. I would sit for hours with a single problem. I just wouldn’t give up.
One teacher noticed my efforts and offered to help. Usually, I’d refuse everyone. However, that day, for the very first time, I opened up. I allowed her to see my real vulnerability. And I began to ask questions. This was the birth of math aiding me to escape my shell.
Quite soon, I noticed some small success, which led to another… and another. For the very first time, I felt some confidence in my abilities, but more than that, as a person. Math was something I had told myself I couldn’t do. Now I knew I could. I was motivated to work harder, and I kept improving.
The feeling of achievement was intoxicating. Even though my life outside of math was hard to solve and unpredictable, I discovered that my confidence was growing. Math became like a therapy to me, and I started to take real pleasure in it.
" When I worked through a problem I was in control of everything from my
process to the outcome. "
Soon, math became like a game to me. It was at this point I began to excel. It was as if I were “hacking the secret codes” of a puzzle discovering that my process of reverse engineering to solve math problems seemed so much simpler than how teachers explained it. I began to wonder why teachers made math so complicated. It was THAT question which inspired me to become a teacher. I knew it could be taught more simply.
Math is a universal language that humans of every race share. It transcends all borders. It’s an absolute language with concrete rules. There’s no arguable science, creative hypothesis, or varying definitions within it. It’s not complicated by interpretations of grammar, pronunciation, or syntax. There can be alternative ways to solve a problem, but there’s only ever one final answer.
That’s the reason why I call it the simplest of all subjects.
Math is powerful. It’s a critical foundation of our civilisation. We created it to make sense of our world and it has realised the greatest dreams of our imaginations. When we want to go further, go faster, go higher, go deeper, carry more, grow more, get warmer, or get colder, math helps us achieve those goals. It’s been the tool that has realised our most important breakthroughs as a civilisation.
Many believe, incorrectly, that some cultures have a better capacity for math, or that it’s a genetic talent. The truth is that some countries, such as Japan and Singapore, simply place a higher value upon math skills, not only because they have a longer and deeper history with math and its development, however because their math fluency is an important economic driver for the country. As a result, they commit investment into math education at a very early age with Kids trained by math specialists. They don’t leave it to generalist teachers, guarantee their population is fluent and are leaders in their field. They guarantee actual success.
Math is a system, and systems inherently make sense.
"You simply need to master each of the foundations followed by each stage
to build the additional
layers upon it."
These are the reasons why I say, anyone can do math given the right environment and the right instruction?”
The “right environment” has a depth to it that traditional venues simply do not have. It's a fostering environment. An environment where teachers don't judge students, but rather work with them from where they are, not some arbitrary place they are “supposed to be.” No child should feel defeated or left behind in any area of education or life. Every child has the potential to excel.
If you have a child who struggles with math, and even if you also struggled at school, there are some things you can do to encourage a better understanding of math and it’s place and purpose in our world.
Teach kids from where they are, not where they “should” be. Grade levels were invented to keep same-age kids together at school. They are not a set marker for all kids. Kids are different. They learn and grow at their own pace.
Know your kids’ learning styles (visual kids need to see it, auditory kids need to hear it, kinesthetic kids need to do it, and everyone learns best with all three in play). Work to create the environment that best supports their learning style.
If you struggled with math, share with your kids how that has impacted your life. Never say, “I’m not good at math, so I don’t expect you to be good at it either.” That just sets them up with an excuse to fail. Understand that learning a system takes time and proper instruction. Math talent is not genetic – it’s learned.
Avoid the temptation to micromanage your kids. Set clear guidelines and give them the space to finish their work. Give them your trust. Empower them. When you hover over your kids, your patience will run out and your efforts will backfire.
What matters most in math is understanding. Speed in calculating math questions is not important. Speed is the biproduct of understanding. Old-school teaching is all about mental math and speed. These days, children are far more consumed by everything going on in their lives. They need more time to learn and absorb. Provide them with that time and their speed will naturally improve.
Avoid the worksheet web. They are boring and pretty much a waste of time under the guise of “learning.” Worksheets don’t inspire kids to learn math.
Expose your kids to the math concepts that are in their world, similar to when you go shopping (managing money, computing sales tax), or when you’re preparing meals (fractions, proportions). Can you see how real this feels? Help your kids see the beauty of math in everyday transactions and interactions, especially money. Everyone likes money. Begin to talk to your kids about how math impacts everything you and they do.
These are some easy and effective ways to help your kids make math more enjoyable. My style of Coaching and the system of MathCodes evolved from these exact principles, which are fundamental in creating the “right environment.”
"The key is to learn by design, not by default."
You can try this, too. Create a team with your kids. Be in it with them. Cheer them on. Be willing to learn it with them. Let them cheer you on. Discover new ways to simplify math and fun ways to teach it. Kids love it, when they “get it.” You will too.
“Hacking the secret codes” of math has allowed me the freedom and confidence to become who I am. My MathCodes system of coaching is a holistic method that creates an environment of trust and motivation. It’s a system that students can rely on and teaches students how to trust in themselves. It has helped thousands of struggling students become independent, confident, lifelong learners. Together, we have proven that anyone can learn math if given the “right environment.”
I share my story of struggle with all my families. Every one of them knows about my journey. I tell them, “This is how I felt, and I know how you feel. If I can do it so can you.
The greatest reward is seeing your students moving on because they no longer need your coaching. That is proof that Anyone Can Excel at Math!
For more information, contact Math Codes here.
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