Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"Math People"

Over the years, I have done a lot of tutoring in various subjects. Of course, I get a lot of math students--either students who need help with a math class or who are reviewing math in preparation for a standardized test. So a lot of people have trouble with math. This is understandable, as it can be a difficult subject. But what I find baffling is how often I get comments like, "I just don't get math" or "I'm not a math person." It's this odd fatalism you don't usually find in other academic subjects. I don't hear people say, "Well, I'm not really a history person" or "I don't get English." They might say they don't like it or they find it boring or they have trouble with part of it (usually grammar), but they assume that if they cared enough to put in the effort, they could understand it.

Why don't they assume the same for math? The premise is actually arguably more true for math than for other subjects because of how systematic math is. Maybe the problem is that it is easier to get behind in math--if you miss one conceptual building block, you're more or less stalled until you can get past it and work your way back up. Maybe it has something to do with cultural assumptions about math and the people who love it.

Look: you can learn math. I promise. And it can be very useful. A better understanding of percentages and interest could have decreased the number of people who accepted bad mortgages. An understanding of statistics can help you decide whether a poll or scientific study is actually valid. And geometry has applications in physics, art, architecture, engineering, and animation, among other things.

There are no "math people." There are people who choose to learn math, and people who choose not to.

Choose math.

1 comment:

  1. I like this post! I wasn't a big math person growing up, but I miss it terribly now.