Are You Perpetuating the Myth that You are Not Good at Maths?

Are You Perpetuating the Myth that You are Not Good at Maths?

What if I could prove to you that you are great at maths and you have been living a lie?

Many potential leaders and successful business owners are sabotaging their career and business potential success by believing in the Myths of Maths. These jeopardising beliefs must stop today, and this article will show you how to disprove these maths myths and unlock your maths potential.

The Myths of Maths: There are some clear, definite and, yes, calculable, facts about maths that you should know.

The University of Oxford in June 2021 released a study which found that students who didn’t study maths after 16 years of age could be disadvantageous to cognitive development.

The study revealed that those who ceased studying maths effected an essential area of the brain involved in many vital functions including reasoning, problem solving, maths, memory, and learning. The effect is caused by a lower amount of a crucial chemical necessary for brain plasticity commonly known as GABA.

Roi Cohen Kadosh, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Oxford, who led the study said, “Maths skills are associated with a range of benefits, including (future) employment, socioeconomic status, and mental and physical health.”

It seems that persevering with maths has major benefits.

Adolescence is a pivotal time in an individual’s life to be developing math skills as the brain is growing in particular ways. This is a special time for developmental milestones in education to be formed. 

Simply studying maths makes you smarter. Surely, this is good to know and helps for all the times you may be wondering why you are pondering and working hard on a particular maths concept.

It surely answers the most common question lamenting teachers and parents hear, “Why do I have to do maths?”

Answer: Because it makes you smarter.

It’s now proven.

To help you, let’s get a few things straight. If you think at this point in time you are not so great at maths, here’s why you should stick with it.

Here are 5 myths about maths you should know.

Myth #1: Maths is not part of your DNA

Myth #1: Maths is not part of your DNA, your ability to do maths is not hereditary.

You are not your parent’s brain. You have your own brain. One that is completely yours to train and nurture, develop, tame, and enjoy. This myth is sabotaging your belief system.

It is a far too common that I hear a parent lament, “Well, I couldn’t do maths at school, so no wonder Sarah is having trouble…” or, “Joe has taken after me. I was never any good at maths and struggled all the way through school…” or, “Being bad at maths seems to run in our family.” It is sometimes the case where a parent makes it sound as if it is expected that a student will be poor at maths, simply because they were born into a particular family and share DNA.

This does not have to be the case. Nor is it the case physiologically or from a neuroscience perspective.

Your parents are not unteachable. They are not really bad at maths because they would be using it all the time to go shopping, cook a meal, run a home, and pay bills, drive a car, go to work or run a business – they may not realise just how good they really are. So, take heart.

Sadly, I have worked with children who have achieved a great maths result while working really hard with me in session and when I hand the child back to the parent and hear that comment, I observe a physical and emotional change in the child. Sometimes they become less interactive and more helpless, as if they have been brainwashed to believe they are somehow destined to be plagued by maths just because they are part of a particular family.

The good news: we should all be challenged by maths – it grows the brain. It makes you smarter. Even people who appear to be super talented in mathematics are stimulated and challenged by numbers. They still work at it.

“Somehow it’s okay for people to chuckle about not being good at math. Yet, if I said, ‘I never learned to read,’ they’d say I was an illiterate dolt.”

– Neil deGrasse Tyson, American astrophysicist & author

Myth #2: Maths is hard. Maths is not hard if you understand it is about applying to a process. As simple as 2 + 2 = 4 may appear – it is a process. Maths is a structure. Working with structure also organises the brain to be more logical and develop complex reasoning skills. Having a structured mind will also lead to more confidence.

Mathematics is a language all of its own. And like any foreign language it needs practice and repetition and memorisation of new vocabulary and the understanding of grammar. Maths is about reasoning, problem solving and utilising fundamentals. If you were to learn German, French, Mandarin, Arabic, Swahili or Korean you would have to memorise many words and be using those frequently in order to embed those in your brain. So it is with maths.

Maths only seems hard if we do not stay with the problem long enough and make the effort to learn times tables and other basic number facts.

Times tables do matter and provide an understanding of pattern. All you need is a willingness to work and a willingness to switch your focus to work at a problem and not give up at the first sign of a frustration and walk away. Sticking at anything, is a skill for life. Except maybe, procrastination.

You have to practice anything to be good whether kicking a ball, learning a new dance step, riding a bike, learning a song, learning the rules of any game, playing chess, making a cake and tying a shoe lace.

So it is with maths. A friend of mine who once taught maths once said, “I spent countless hours solving a wide range of very similar problems, and when new problems came up, I had the rules and the methods in my mind, due not just to understanding, but to practice and remembering”.

Neuroscience Facts: Did you know:

1.      That fish can count? They can show a preference for larger quantities supports the idea that fish are able to process quantitative information in order to be more successful foragers in the wild. While they may not count ‘one, two or three’, as we know it, they will choose larger shoals for survival in their environment.

2.      Bees use area and edge length to make choices in ‘counting’?

3.      Dolphins can respond to three and two dimensional modes of counting beyond five?

If these animals can do it, so can you. I have faith in you, and I wonder what would take for you to believe in you?

Myth # 3: You use only 10% of your brain. Not true at all.

This is the greatest of all neuromyths.

All parts of your brain are important and utilised. We know through medical science that damage to any part of the brain can have a devastating effect.

Neuroscience Fact: What we do know is that your brain is ‘hungry for real estate’ – in other words – it is always looking for space to grow. The areas of the brain that are most used can, and will expand, but it is super important to know that that expansion means other areas are diminished and those brain cells may die.

What you need to think about is what areas of your brain are you developing at the expense of others?

Doing maths will only develop your brain not damage it – although there may be times when you feel it may be with how hard you have to think.

The brain is particularly active in sleep. In fact, it is very active. During that time it moves memory from short term into long term memory. Your brain is busy processing all the time, we just don’t know or feel it. It is regulating, integrating, monitoring, sensing, interpreting, reasoning, planning, and acting. 

“In mathematics the art of proposing a question must be held of higher value than solving it.”

— Georg Cantor, German mathematician

Myth #4: You have to have a mathematical brain to do maths. Actually, DOING maths develops the brain – for everyone. For some, learning maths actually creates a ‘mathematical brain’. Maths helps order and structure how we learn and compliments all the ways we learn visually, auditorily and kinaesthetically as well as conceptually and theoretically.

Maths is about seeing patterns – in all things – and you have been doing that since you were playing with blocks as a toddler.

Neuroscience Fact: We are all mathematicians. We were born with all the areas of the brain which enable us to be adept at maths – it is just how we train and use those parts of the brain.

Learning the fundamentals at early stages in our education up through high school certainly helps so that we can grow with all the challenges and problems we face as we mature.

Learning to work with maths has added benefits – many other areas of the brain are developed and utilised while in the process of working on one maths problem. We learn to think conceptually, spatially, symbolically, abstractly and theoretically. 

‘Obvious’ is the most dangerous word in mathematics.

— Eric Temple Bell, Scottish mathematician

Myth #5: It does not matter if you do not take maths at school.

In fact, it matters a great deal. Why? Because your brain is developing in stages and it is very important that you learn certain maths rule and processes at varying times through school so you can build upon the knowledge already created and be able to tackle tougher problems, not just mathematical.

You don’t want to hypnotise yourself by claiming internally or externally that you are not good at maths. What you want to say, out loud may be, “I’m not good at maths, yet. But I am getting better all the time.”  Or “My maths ability is continually improving, stretching my thinking is worth it”.

Working with one’s psychology with attempting maths is particularly important. In many cases, half the battle.

Neuroscience Fact: A study was conducted at the University of Oxford in June 2021 led by Roi Cohen Kadosh, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Oxford. He said: “Maths skills are associated with a range of benefits, including employment, socioeconomic status, and mental and physical health. Adolescence is an important period in life that is associated with important brain and cognitive changes.

Sadly, the opportunity to stop studying maths at this age seems to lead to a gap between adolescents who stop their maths education compared to those who continue it. Our study provides a new level of biological understanding of the impact of education on the developing brain and the mutual effect between biology and education”.

A very clever mathematician, Leonard Adleman, once said, “My philosophy is that it’s important, in a curious way, for scientists (in other words, students) to be courageous. Not physically courageous, but courageous in an intellectual way. I believe that by working on extremely hard problems, by being courageous, you may succeed.

But even if you fail, you fail gloriously. And you will have learned immense amounts, you will have extended the envelope of what you can do. As a by-product of failing on a great problem, I have always found that I could solve some lesser but still interesting problems—which then fill your vitae.”

Source: Interview at USC (August 2, 1996)

There are countless reasons why just the approach to learn maths will create an advantage for you throughout life. Dispel these myths and begin to see the process of the knowledge of maths as a way to grow and strengthen your brain. Embrace and enjoy the challenge, and all the benefits.

“Life is a maths equation. In order to gain the most, you have to know how to convert negatives into positives.” 

–Anonymous

So, where to from here?

Now that you have the facts, are you ready to let go of the maths myths that have potentially been sabotaging your success?

And, if not now, when?

For individual support, private tutoring (local and international) and free resources visit www.jillsweatman.com or contact jill@jillsweatman.com

Select References:

American Mathematical Society. (n.d.). AMS Open Math Notes: Search Results. [online] Available at: https://www.ams.org/open-math-notes [Accessed 7 Jul. 2021].

Department for Education (2013). National curriculum in England: mathematics programmes of study. [online] GOV.UK. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-curriculum-in-england-mathematics-programmes-of-study.

Featured Neuroscience·July 8 and 2021 (2021). Handwriting Beats Typing and Watching Videos for Learning to Read. [online] Neuroscience News. Available at: https://neurosciencenews.com/handwriting-reading-learning-18875/ [Accessed 9 Jul. 2021].

One Fish, Two Fish, Fish Can Count(ish?) https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/one-fish-two-fish-fish-can-count-ish-180970122/

Lucon-Xiccato, T., Miletto Petrazzini, M. E., Agrillo, C., & Bisazza, A. (2015). Guppies discriminate between two quantities of food items but prioritize item size over total amount. Animal Behaviour, 107, 183–191. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2015.06.019

Nsw.edu.au. (2020). Mathematics K–10 | NSW Education Standards. [online] Available at: https://educationstandards.nsw.edu.au/wps/portal/nesa/k-10/learning-areas/mathematics/mathematics-k-10.

Sian Beilock (2011). Choke. London: Constable.

University of Oxford. “Lack of math education negatively affects adolescent brain and cognitive development: A new study suggests that not having any math education after the age of 16 can be disadvantageous.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 June 2021. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/06/210607161149.htm>.

Washington.edu. (2014). Neuroscience For Kids – 10% of the Brain Myth. [online] Available at: https://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/tenper.html.

The Effects of Handwriting Experience on Literacy Learning” by Brenda Rapp and Robert Wiley. Psychological Science

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share
Share
Tweet
Pin