When I was in school Maths was my favourite subject. That was in the eighties when the teaching of Maths only involved numbers and formulas. I was doing very well and that was giving me the motivation to try harder. I was getting satisfaction from my achievements and could see the magic in Maths.
Needless to say that in a class of 35 students, I was the exception. I was so excited about Maths that was oblivious to the other children’s feelings about the subject, … and adults for that matter. For parents were teriffied of Maths as well.
Most of my friends hated Maths. My best friend could not see how they related to real life, so she simply did not care. She was a girl after all, and we all knew at the time that girls do not do well at Maths. Other friends found it hard, boring and dry and they demonstrated negative attitudes towards the subject. But that was ok as well. We also knew that only exceptionally clever people can do Maths.
Twenty five odd years ago, it was ok not to be good at Maths. Only a few children were expected to perform well. This is what teachers, students and parents believed. In other words a blend of stereotypes was in the air and you just could not get away. I am still puzzled at how I escaped this mindset.
Back then people believed that you could either be good at numbers and calculations or you simply could not. If you could do well at Maths or to put it differently if you had the gift of Maths, then it was inevitable that you would perform well. The notion of putting the effort, working hard, practicing and developing your skills was not applied to the learning of Maths.
At the time there was little research about how children learn. The prevailing belief was that only few people can do Maths. The rest will become Maths illiterate.
Fast forward to the present day and little has changed. The students of the eighties are the parents of 2013. Inevitably, they have been carrying their lack of confidence and negative attitudes towards Maths for so long that they simply cannot let go. The majority of them had a terrible time with Maths. So the resilience of the stereotypical image of Maths should not come as a surprise.
As a parent and educational professional interacting with other parents I see this all the time. It still strikes me as odd that people are happy to declare that they do not understand Maths or they cannot do basic calculations, while at the same time would be embarrassed to make an equal statement about not being able to read or write.
But now we know that everybody (regardless of their sex, ethnic origing and socioeconomic status) has the potential to do well at Maths. All it takes is gifted teachers, engaging lessons and above all parents that regardless of their own experience in school put a positive spin on Maths and encourage their children to put the effort to do well.
How was it for you? Did you like Maths at school or was it a traumatic experience? Please share and I will collate your views in a subsequent post.