Advertising
Advertising

Not A Math Person? Learn Why You’re Actually Fooling Yourself

Not A Math Person? Learn Why You’re Actually Fooling Yourself

“That might work for you, but I’ve never been a math person.”

How many times have we all heard that? At work, school, or with friends and family?

Or maybe, more appropriately for a lot of us, how many times have you said it yourself? But is it actually true? Or is it a convenient, or maybe even subconscious, response to the inherent difficulty of learning a complex subject?

Born to learn math?

Yes, math is more difficult than most standard life skills (learning to walk, talk, interact with people, etc.), but that does not at all mean it’s not within reach of the average person. In fact, according to Daniel Willingham, professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Virginia, humans seem to be born naturally able to understand the rough concept of a number (e.g. when comparing 10 coffee beans to 50 coffee beans) and manipulate small numbers, and understand that numbers and space are related (e.g. going forward 10 meters gets you over here, going backward 10 meters puts you over there).

Advertising

This seems to mean that the underlying machinery to learn and understand math is present in all of us.

Math Wall

    So what makes some of us good at math then?

    Do you believe in math?

    Well, professors Noah Smith and Miles Kimball show that the one key difference between students who are good at math and those who aren’t is simply that their belief in math as genetic, as opposed to a learned skill. Turns out, it’s much like a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you think your abilities in math are determined by your genes, chances are you probably won’t get that far. If you think math is learnable, chances are you’ll end up a calculus whiz.

    portrait of a genius

      So, depending on your BELIEFS about learning, you might just not have the MOTIVATION to dig in to tough higher-level math. I wouldn’t go as far to say that if you don’t think you’re a math person YOU’RE LAZY, but it definitely turns into a convenient excuse not only given by students, but actually (and tragically) promoted by parents and teachers.

      Advertising

      The truth about math

      The truth of the matter is this that in order to learn any level of complex math, you need three crucial things:

      1. Factual Knowledge: memorization of the answers to a small set of fundamental math problems.

      This would include numbers, counting, addition/subtraction, multiplication/division, etc. These things need to be fully committed to long-term memory, so that you don’t have to use any working memory to process them. Otherwise, when you reach more complex math, like long division or algebra, you’re going to get stumped much more easily trying to use your brainpower to figure out how to multiply two numbers and perform other more complex operations at the same time.

      1852

        2. Procedural Knowledge: an understanding of the procedures and rules to apply.

        This means knowing the sequence of steps you have to follow to solve math problems, and the constraints that apply to different concepts. These are things like factoring, order of operations, trig functions, etc. This, in addition to memorization of the basic math fundamentals, makes up the core foundation of the mathematics toolbox.

        And virtually anybody can memorize basic facts and sets of rules and procedures (we do this naturally with language), it just takes time and practice (which many people aren’t willing to give because, you guessed it, they don’t think they’re any good at math).

        Advertising

        Math

          3. Conceptual Knowledge: an understanding of the meaning behind the numbers, operations, and rules.

          This is widely regarded to be the most difficult thing to teach when it comes to math, because in order to understand the rules that apply to say, algebraic variables, you need to be able to relate that to something you are already familiar with (e.g. I push with this amount of effort “f” and that results in this amount of acceleration “a” for any object as heavy as “m”).

          The problem becomes finding something you’re familiar with. And this is where most students and teachers stop, not realizing that it’s impossible to simply learn the facts and procedures without making analogies and relationships to real-world experience. Imagine trying to learn Chinese just by reading a book full of symbols and rules for how to put those symbols together.

          Homework

            (Side note: this is why I think learning physics and geometry should occur directly alongside any math class that goes beyond basic functions. Because, guess what? That’s where mathematics came from!) And this is the reason why most students not only think they aren’t “naturally good at math,” but also how they fall behind – because as the problems become more complex, the conceptual understanding behind the numbers is essential to figure out what to do when, for example, you have a polynomial algebra problem buried inside of an integral.

            What to do about math…

            So stop with the self-defeating self-talk. Yes, you may not be good at math now, but you, and everybody else who is capable of basic human learning, have the ability to learn and become competent if you:

            Advertising

            1. Memorize the basic math facts (yes multiplication tables are actually useful).

            2. Learn the rules and procedures that go along with different operations.

            3. Simultaneously learn the meaning behind the operations, relating them to familiar knowledge and experiences you already have inside of your head.

            Featured photo credit: Jimmie Homeschool Mom via flickr.com

            More by this author

            7 Reasons You Won’t Start Studying Until It’s Too Late, And What To Do About It The 3 Things Elon Musk Knows About School That All Students Should Copy 10 Ways for Students to Crush It Next Semester 20 Funny Things Everyone Can Do Every Day to Get Smarter 10 counterintuitive quotes on learning that will make you a better student

            Trending in Productivity

            1 10 Good Habits to Have in Life to Be More Successful 2 15 Reasons Why You Can’t Achieve Your Goals 3 11 Reasons Why We Fail to Achieve Our Goals 4 Learn How to Be Productive and Happy With These 11 Tips 5 How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

            Read Next

            Advertising
            Advertising
            Advertising

            Last Updated on November 16, 2020

            10 Good Habits to Have in Life to Be More Successful

            10 Good Habits to Have in Life to Be More Successful

            Habits are behaviors and patterns that you showcase by default. Many good habits to have will enable you to carry out crucial activities like taking a shower, brushing your teeth, and getting ready for work. 

            Interestingly, you follow this routine every day without thinking twice. Your unconscious daily habits create room for your brain to perform more advanced activities like problem-solving and choosing what book to read.

            Everyone has habits, and several of those habits are activated every day. I would classify them into three groups:

            • Habits that you hardly notice as they have become a major part of your life, such as brushing teeth or getting dressed.
            • Good habits to have to be more successful, like eating healthy, exercising, and reading books.
            • Habits that are harmful, like procrastinating, smoking, or overeating.

            Good habits are fundamental to becoming successful in life. Yet, as significant as habits are, some lack the knowledge of their capabilities.

            While much of the emphasis falls on bad habits to break, it’s just as important to focus on good habits to have and cultivate in your daily routine.

            Here, we’ll talk about 10 good habits to have to be more successful in life.

            1. Begin Your Day with Meditation

            I recommend mindful meditation early in the morning. This practice helps you to place yourself in the present moment. Consequently, it enables you to be mindful of challenging situations during the day.

            Different stressors may trigger as you go through the day; meditation helps you to remain calm before taking on the challenges.

            Personally, it helps me to devise strategies and think about ideas. Meditation is a good habit to have if you want to be connected to what’s significant in your life.

            2. Be Grateful for What You Have

            It’s not uncommon to waste time thinking of what’s not enough. You become immersed in those daunting challenges. However, challenges justify the presence of hope. The only strategy you have to stop focusing on your problems is to focus on what you have.

            Advertising

            Gratitude is a time-tested pathway to success, health, and happiness. It redirects your focus to what you have from what you lack. Try writing a list of things you’re grateful for each day in a gratitude journal, or make it a habit to say one thing you’re grateful for when you sit down to dinner with your family.

            3. Smile

            Can you pause and smile before you continue reading this?

            Now, here is what just happened based on research conducted by the Association for Psychological Science; you set a pace for living a happier life when you smile. A genuine smile, or what’s called a Duchenne smile, is a good habit to have if you want to find spiritual, emotional, and mental peace of mind.[1]

            Smiling induces the release of molecules that function towards fighting stress. The physiological state of your body determines the state of your mind. When you slouch or frown, your mind takes cues relating to unhappiness and depression. However, once you adjust yourself by putting on a smile, you begin to feel a new level of excitement and vibrancy.

            4. Start Your Day With a Healthy Breakfast

            Starting your day with a healthy breakfast is a good habit to have and forms a crucial part of your life. Nevertheless, about 31 million Americans skip their breakfast each day.[2]

            If you are fed up hearing that breakfast is a crucial component of your day, you are only fighting the truth. If you want to become more successful, you need to “break your fast” with healthy foods every morning.

            This habit is not difficult to form if you usually rush out the door every single morning. You can wake up earlier to fix yourself a meal so you don’t break down during the day.

            Get inspired by these 20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time.

            5. Exercise Daily

            One of the good habits to have is to exercise your body and muscles on a daily basis. You don’t have to run a marathon or lift tons of weights. You only need to engage in activities that oxygenate your blood and inject endorphins in your body, trying to squeeze in at least 15 minutes every day.

            Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, classified exercise as a good habit to maximize his already jam-packed schedule.[3] He said:

            Advertising

            “I wake up by 5, meditate for 30 minutes, seven-minute workout times three, make coffee, and check-in.”

            He said on Product Hunt that he follows this routine every day as it gives him a steady-state that empowers him to be more productive.

            6. Manage Your Time

            Another good habit is the act of managing your time effectively. This goes a long way toward impacting your achievement.

            Time management is what separates the successful from the rest of the world as we all possess the same amount of time. How you leverage time determines your potential to succeed in life[4].

            Good habits to have: Time management tips

              So how do you manage your time effectively?

              Here’s Jack Dorsey’s recommendation in one of the Techonomy events:

              “I accomplish effective time management by theming my days and practicing self-discipline. These themes help me handle distractions and interactions. If a request or task does not align with the theme for that day, I don’t do it. This sets a cadence for everyone in the company to deliver and evaluate their progress”.

              And this is Dorsey’s weekly theme layout:[5]

              • Monday – Management
              • Tuesday – Product
              • Wednesday – Marketing and growth
              • Thursdays – Developers and partnerships
              • Fridays – Culture and recruiting
              • Saturdays – Taking off
              • Sundays – Reflection, feedback, strategy, and preparing for Monday

              No wonder he was able to run two companies when others were struggling with one job.

              Advertising

              7. Set Daily Goals With Intentions

              Everyone has goals, whether they relate to business or personal life. The truth is, we’re all tending towards a particular direction. Nevertheless, while long-term goals can offer you direction, it’s your daily goals that help you develop short-term goals that are essential for your success.

              Long-term goals may not give you the motivation you need to keep on, but when you implement your short-term milestones daily, you become fired up, and you can overcome the challenges that come with taking on bigger tasks.

              Here’s the main truth: Successful people don’t set goals without establishing their intentions. According to Jennifer Cohen of Forbes,[6]

              “What helps you to achieve your desired expectation is ensuring intentions accompany your daily goals.”

              8. Seek Inspiration

              It is usually difficult to be inspired for a considerable length of time. Sometimes, you become discouraged and feel like giving up on your goals when things are not working out as intended.

              A practical approach to stay on top of the situation is to inspire yourself each day. When you wake up in the morning (after meditation), watch some motivational videos, and let the story of great leaders inspire you.

              Establish what Anthony Robbins called the “hour of power.” Determine how many minutes you spend, but make it count. Inspiration is the fuel for achievement because when you can conceive it in your mind, you can accomplish it.

              Michal Solowow, an investor and the founder of Mitex, puts it this way[7]:

              “The problems I encounter in everyday life motivate me to find solutions. This is a self-propelling mechanism. Becoming a billionaire was never a motivating factor.”

              9. Save Steadily, Invest With All Prudence

              I can’t exhaust the good habits to have without talking about saving and investing. Most times, you overlook the significance of saving for the future when you are living in your present moment. According to CNBC, a $1000 emergency will propel several Americans into debt.[8]

              Advertising

              However, it is not enough to save, and you must invest your funds and be wise with them. If you pay attention to this now, you will set yourself up for a life of success in the future. Ensure you save at least six months in your emergency account so you can be prepared for any future emergency.

              If you’re looking for a simple way to save money, check out the following video:

              10. Budget and Track Your Spending

              Benjamin Franklin warned of taking the precaution of little expenses. He said:

              “A small leak sinks a great ship.”

              It is easy to discard little expenses, but the truth is they always add up. This happens when you fail to budget.

              Budgeting is a good habit to have, and it can impact your financial life significantly. The money you spend on extravagant lifestyles can be saved and invested in your future instead.

              The Bottom Line

              Endeavor to start developing good habits to have to become more successful as you journey through life. The quicker you cultivate them, the faster you will achieve your goals.

              More About Cultivating Good Habits

              Featured photo credit: Andrijana Bozic via unsplash.com

              Reference

              Read Next