Math. Mathematics. Anxiety. Panic. Mental block… “I don’t do maths”.
How is it that these have become common phrases and most of society’s perception when faced with the word, let alone the application of, mathematics?
I must admit to reaching grade 11 and my perception of math changing to one of stress and fear. Perhaps it was because the workload changed. Perhaps it was because I introduced to new scary terminology like calculus and trigonometry. Perhaps because if you aren’t getting A’s you think you can’t do something. Surely there must be more to the fear and the newly accepted, almost pride-filled, statement of “I don’t do math”?
Budgeting, doing our tax returns, calculating the discounts on a sale rack or working out the time it will take us to travel to our holiday destination factoring in traffic delays and a stop at the petrol station. Believe it or not, you do math every day. You might just not particularly enjoy it or feel confident doing it.
Alex Kajitani, a math teacher, “There is NOTHING that does not have SOMETHING to do with maths.” Sports? What about the score board, or the angle of a kick to get a soccer ball into the goal? Tomato Sauce? What about the calories, or the ratio involved in mixing it or the cost of production? I challenge you with the same question. Life is full of numbers, you have just programmed yourself to look the other way because “I don’t do math”.
Although I would not be confident doing a complex trigonometry calculation or providing proofs of a complex math equation, I do feel more confident in my math abilities. Percentages? No problem! Fractions? Sure thing! And on further evaluation I don’t think that this was an overnight achievement or that I’m just lucky to be “good” with numbers. I think that I took the power away from the numbers and the control back into my own hands.
So, what if you get something wrong? A far more important question is, “did you learn from it?”
I think as a society we need to be encouraging confidence and skill building. We should be giving people belief in their ability to learn. Empowering one another. Yes, I believe that we all have talents and are predisposed to be better at maths, or English, art or engineering. But does that mean we can’t be competent in each field, confident in our abilities to learn?
In conclusion, I would like to challenge you to change the “I can’t” to “I can”, and to empower those around you to feel the same way.
Try our free course Fundamental Maths if you need help grasping the basics and getting over your math fears.