“I can’t do math” is really “I don’t have confidence to do math”
If you are someone that struggles with math, or family/friend, then you have to read this!
I love math! I do math for fun! When I was in school, I would do tomorrow’s math lesson today at home, then I would do homework in class while teacher is teaching the lesson, and I start new lesson that evening again. I had so much fun while I am doing this and everyday I looked forward to do math.
But people always mistook my enthusiasm for math as I am a born math genius 😂. I would say “You can like math too” but they will reply “you like it because it’s easy for you”. Ah! I can’t help but laugh at it because only I know that there was a time I hated math. I did! I hated it with all my heart, body and soul.
When I was in second grade, I remember crying to not go to school because of math class. I tried to get good grades in it but I just could not grasp the concepts. But not until after so many years, I found out that I was not not good at math, but I was scared of math. I was scared of failing again and again. I was scared of my math teachers looking at me as if I am dumb. I was scared to upset my parents. I WAS SCARED!
However, one day fate turned, my family and I relocated to my grandmas place. My grandmother and my grandfather were retired math teachers. Looking at me struggling to do math, my grandma offered to help me with my homework. Instantly I started doing better.
I started doing better because my grandmother presented math in a way no one presented it before. She said and I quote “math is a game, there are rules and steps to follow to complete a problem”. She continued “treat every problem in your homework as level of game; each problem is a level and the more levels you complete, the more difficult the next level will be”
That’s exactly what I did. I stopped looking at math problems as “problems” but I took it as a challenge, a fun puzzle, a level of game. Finishing math homework gave me a feeling that I just won a game. And you know how addicting games can be. I got addicted to math. Soon hate turned into love and today I have a degree in mathematics.
My grandmother didn’t not teach me math, she taught me confidence. A lot of children hate math because they are not confident enough to do it and it is a natural reaction. For any subject that is new and odd from normal is given to us, our natural instinct is run. Math is foreign language and it takes bit of courage to take the first step. But many teachers lack the empathy and training to fill the hole and lead students with confidence. If everyone had reached like my grandmother, I bet, even the student that fails will pass the class, if not ace, just fine.
Another story time
I remember tutoring a student who, again, hates math. She failed the final exam many times. I was asked to help her and I couldn’t say no so I stepped in. To be honest, I didn’t do anything. All I did was give her confidence, just like my grandmother did. I told her to treat it as a game and feel happy even if one question gets right. Sometimes, I went overboard and tried to explain concepts using everyday thing like bread lol🥖. But the day I met her, I knew it’s not just that she was not able to understand concepts but her brain is completely shut to a point she can’t even if she wants to. She often stops at each step and looks at me for my approval. She lacked confidence. She was sure that she will fail.
So, I complimented her. I told her that she is doing good. I told her to just solve the problem without stopping nor self doubt . And I told her it’s okay to fail; you can always try again. And sometimes when she tries to waste time instead of doing math, I would give her punishment (made her tell “I love math” ten times lol). I just tried to create a fun environment where she felt relaxed and open to new concepts.
One day she texts me saying “I got 95”. I was shocked. I never in my life imagined that she will get high score in a test. She did it! She eventually passed the final test in one try and after that year I never tutored her again but I never heard her say “I failed an exam” either.
Is she amazing at math now? No! It depends on her own interests but is she scared of math now? No and that’s the difference we can do to make someone better at math. If you can’t get rid of FEAR, then nothing will work!
In the end, I want to say fear of math is real and when someone says “I hate math”, they really mean “I am scared and I don’t have confidence to do it because I know I will fail”. For kids: make it fun (treat it like a game). For teen/ adults: make it fun and make is less stressful. Tell them “they are doing good and it’s ok to get F”. Highlight other subjects that they are good at, make them feel worthy and explain the concepts in a basic language then to technical language.
Signing off Da1sy ❣️