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Mon Nov 4, 2013, 05:44 AM

The Myth of 'I'm Bad at Math' [View all]


"I’m just not a math person.”

We hear it all the time. And we’ve had enough. Because we believe that the idea of “math people” is the most self-destructive idea in America today. The truth is, you probably are a math person, and by thinking otherwise, you are possibly hamstringing your own career. Worse, you may be helping to perpetuate a pernicious myth that is harming underprivileged children—the myth of inborn genetic math ability.

Is math ability genetic? Sure, to some degree. Terence Tao, UCLA’s famous virtuoso mathematician, publishes dozens of papers in top journals every year, and is sought out by researchers around the world to help with the hardest parts of their theories. Essentially none of us could ever be as good at math as Terence Tao, no matter how hard we tried or how well we were taught. But here’s the thing: We don’t have to! For high-school math, inborn talent is much less important than hard work, preparation, and self-confidence.

The results? Convincing students that they could make themselves smarter by hard work led them to work harder and get higher grades. The intervention had the biggest effect for students who started out believing intelligence was genetic. (A control group, who were taught how memory works, showed no such gains.)


But improving grades was not the most dramatic effect, “Dweck reported that some of her tough junior high school boys were reduced to tears by the news that their intelligence was substantially under their control.” It is no picnic going through life believing you were born dumb—and are doomed to stay that way.

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Reply The Myth of 'I'm Bad at Math' [View all]
eridani Nov 2013 OP
TexasProgresive Nov 2013 #1
adirondacker Nov 2013 #2
gopiscrap Nov 2013 #3
adirondacker Nov 2013 #4
gopiscrap Nov 2013 #5
TexasProgresive Nov 2013 #7
adirondacker Nov 2013 #8
eridani Nov 2013 #6
adirondacker Nov 2013 #9
duffyduff Nov 2013 #10
texshelters Nov 2013 #11
LWolf Nov 2013 #12