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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).

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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.

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      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.

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        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).

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        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:

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            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

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            Last Updated on April 9, 2020

            10 Things High Achievers Do to Attain Greatness

            10 Things High Achievers Do to Attain Greatness

            Do you ever secretly wish that you could achieve more with your time? You are not alone. Most people want more from their lives but simply don’t know where to start.

            The good news is that learning to accomplish greatness in your life is totally possible if you learn to study other successful high achievers.

            Find out what sparkling new patterns you want to implement in your own life by studying what real high achievers do in the round up below.

            1. They Know What They Want.

            That seems pretty obvious, but if you don’t have a clear goal, dream or desire in mind, how will you know when you’ve gotten where you wanted to be?

            Successful people have clear goals and a clear vision for how to get there.

            For example, Albert Einstein remained obsessed with the big questions and problems of physics, and he knew exactly what he wanted to do: he wanted to answer the questions and solve the problems that no one else had been able to. And guess what? He did just that.

            High achievers dream specific, plan smart, and confidently strive toward success.

            2. They Focus on Their Goals.

            Once achievers know what they want, they are tenacious and focused on forward progress toward their goals. They don’t run over people or deliberately hurt people to get what they want, but they do stay focused on the end goal in all their interactions and daily tasks.

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            Elon Musk, with a net worth of $21.2 billion, is considered revolutionary.[1] Some might have seen his plans to totally reinvent transportation methods, including fantasy-like transportation methods in outer space, a little silly. But Musk proved them all wrong by staying focused on his goals with hawk-like attention to detail. He spends hours and hours at the office focusing on his goals in order to achieve them.

            Learn How to Stay Focused on Your Goals in a Distracting World.

            3. They Are Passionate.

            It’s very helpful when reaching for a big goal to not just get excited by it, but to truly be passionate about it.

            High achievers often talk about how much fun they are having, or say that they would do what they do even if they weren’t getting paid (and in the beginning, they probably weren’t). That’s the kind of passion and positive outlook you need to achieve your highest goals.

            Bill Gates, creator of Microsoft, began his successful career early in life by simply being excited about things like video games and computers. You can be like Gates too. Identify your passions and pursue them in your career.

            4. They Don’t Procrastinate.

            Some of the things we have to do to meet our goals or achieve our dreams are not very easy, but high achievers are able to focus on what needs to get done and actually do it instead of living in a world of dreams. They have a plan and they can follow it starting right now.

            Even though you may not be into arts, you must have heard of Vincent van Gogh, one of the most influential artists of all time. He is a perfect example of someone who not only dared to dream, but also dared to act.

            Instead of procrastinating or staying in a rut, he made a choice to pursue art and dove in head-first. Although he only worked for about ten years due to a tragically short life, van Gogh produced an estimated 900 paintings and more than 1,000 drawings.[2]

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            If you want to get more out of your life, then stop dreaming and start taking actions today, not tomorrow: How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

            5. They Create Their Own Opportunities.

            True achievers know that they don’t have to be stuck in a box – they can create their own story through hard work.

            Brené Brown is a respected social researcher and increasingly popular speaker and author. She has been hosted on Oprah. She has written and published a slew of popular self-help books, and she has one of the most-watched TEDx talks in history.

            Interestingly, Brown didn’t start her story in a glamorous way. In fact, many social sciences professionals scoffed at her unusual methods of research and her passion for the topic of vulnerability and shame. Brown, however, continued forging her own path until she reached her destination: greatness.

            Brown is a striking example of a person who knew what she wanted and paved her way into her own story of success with dedication. High achievers know that nothing good comes without hard work. They are willing to create their own opportunities and don’t expect to be handed cookie-cutter dreams in life.

            6. They Have Positive Attitudes.

            Studies of high-performing students find that the happiest students are those who excel most academically.[3] The same holds true for adults in business and in life.

            If you have a good attitude, enjoy what you’re doing and remember that setbacks are temporary, it’s a lot easier to be successful. Without negativity, there’s nothing to hold you back from achieving whatever it is you want to achieve.

            A positive attitude also helps people to think of what they are doing as important, which is a great way to stay motivated and working toward a goal.

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            Jim Carey, the famous comedian and actor, began looking for gigs as a teenager. At age fifteen, he performed onstage and completely disappointed the crowd with a less-than-successful first performance. Carey ultimately succeeded, though, by maintaining a positive outlook. He is known for visualizing success, staying positive, and continuing to work hard.

            7. They Have a Team They Can Count On.

            High achievers know they can’t do everything themselves. There’s a time very early on when you can go it alone, but even the smallest startups need help. It’s actually easier for a company‒or a dream‒to grow more quickly if there are more people engaged in making it work.

            Your team could even be one or two trusted individuals who have your back when things get hard. Stephen King, an iconic author, submitted one of his first novels, “Carrie”, to more than 30 publishers. He received rejection after rejection and even threw his manuscript in the trash. His wife was his team; she pulled the manuscript out of the trash and asked him to try again. “Carrie” was a hit and became a springboard to a successful writing career spanning more than 50 bestsellers.

            High achievers are able to foster great relationships and build teams that can help them achieve what they want even faster. They tend to have an eye for talent and are good at attracting the right people to their teams.

            If you want to be a better leader, these tips can help: How to Master Your Management Skills and Build a Strong Team

            8. They Take Time for Themselves.

            Amid all this hard work, multitasking and big dreaming, high achievers know they need to take care of themselves too. Getting sick in the middle of a major launch isn’t good for anyone.

            So a lot of stories you read about people who’ve had a lot of success will note that they eat well, exercise regularly, try to get enough sleep and even occasionally take time away from the office to refuel.

            Emma Stone, a highly esteemed actress, is open with the media about her struggle with anxiety and stress.[4] She reportedly practices self-compassion, meditation, and self-kindness to take care of herself.

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            Successful people know that sacrifice is often required for success, but they understand what they need to do to keep their bodies and minds performing well.

            9. They Don’t Bad-Mouth Others.

            High achievers know better than to burn bridges. They practice the advice that you shouldn’t say bad things about others, and they usually listen more than they speak.

            They also tend not to compare themselves to others or get envious. They’re so focused on what they want to do that they don’t stop to look around at what others are doing.

            10. They Never Quit.

            Tyler Perry, an accomplished director, writer, and performer, faced early failures in both his personal life and professional life. Perry pushed through these personal challenges and dealt with failure after failure with his first production. Finally, his production gained momentum, and he is now successful because he never gave up.

            High achievers are tenacious, sticking to their plans and goals as long as they need to in order to get where they want to be. If they didn’t stick with it, they wouldn’t achieve anything.

            Final Thoughts

            Success and achievement are not just for the people mentioned above — they are for you, too!

            Unlock your future by finding your passions and goals, and working hard. Pay attention to what other high achievers around you are doing, and follow suit.

            Before you know it, you will be creating your own famous success story.

            More Tips About Achieving Success

            Featured photo credit: Fabrizio Verrecchia via unsplash.com

            Reference

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