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Not being a 'math person' is something that is not only asserted pretty frequently, but also, accepted very readily. According to a 2010 survey conducted by Change the Equation three out of ten Americans believe that they are 'bad' at math, while over half of 18-34 year-old's seem to have convinced themselves that they just can't tackle numbers.
However, over the past few years numerous researchers have discovered that 'being bad at math' is just a myth and that all of us can be whizzes if we tackle the subject with the right attitude, motivation and hold your breath . . . hard work!
University of Michigan Professor Miles Kimball and Stony Brook University Assistant Professor Noah Smith, who have both taught math for many years in various capacities, say that they see a consistent pattern. Students enter the class at various levels of preparation - some ready to take on the challenge, whilst others hoping to just 'wing it'. The former group of course does really well, while the latter ends up with lower grades. However, instead of realizing that it takes work to bring up the grade, they take the easy way out and declare that they are 'not' math people and the downward spiral begins.
Their observations are backed up with solid evidence by researchers from University of Munich and University of Beilefeld who followed the progress of the math ability of 3,520 students for five years from fifth to tenth grade. Besides constantly testing the kids on various topics like arithmetic, algebra and geometry, the researchers also required them to answer questions about their study habits and interest in math.
What they discovered was that in the earlier grades, students that had a higher IQ or were naturally smarter, did well without putting in much effort. However, as they moved to higher grades it was the study habits and motivation that became the most important. Those that memorized the subject rather than understood it, lagged as did those that were not motivated. According to lead researcher Kou Muryama who published the findings in the December 2012 edition of Child Development, "While intelligence as assessed by IQ tests is important in the early stages of developing mathematical competence, motivation and study skills play a more important role in students' subsequent growth,"
Purdue University's Patricia Louise Linehan who conducted a similar study concurs. She says it's all about the attitude students approach the subject with. When kids start by saying "I'm not good at math and so I never will be", they simply stop working at it and just attribute their bad grades to the fact that their brains are just not 'wired' for the subject!
So, the good news is that we can all be math geniuses - The bad? We have to step it up instead of hiding behind the age-old excuse 'I am not good with numbers'!
Resources: finance.yahoo.com, huffingtonpost.com, sciencedaily.com