This is the title of an excellent article by Miles Kimball and Noah Smith in The Atlantic magazine about the “Math Person” myth and math phobia.

“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.

This article reminded me of John Mighton‘s book “The Myth of Ability”, “Mindset” by Carol Dweck and . John Mighton writes about how all children can succeed at math with good instruction. Carol Dweck’s book is about how our perception of our intelligence as either fixed or changeable affects our success. If we believe we can control our intelligence and learning to some degree (and neuroscience tells us we can) then we are more likely to be successful. On the other hand, if we believe that intelligence (or talents such as sports or musical ability) is genetic and we are born with it then we will not put in the effort required to improve.

The main message is that all people can be good at math with proper instruction, determination and work. Math phobia is a big problem in school and we need to get rid of it. It’s very important for adults to be aware of this and not talk about being bad at math around children.

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dreamerrambling

December 18, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Agreed. It’s down to hard work. But I don’t think it’s a case of capability. I think it’s a case of compatibility. I did relatively well in mathematics at school but hated every moment of it. It really made me miserable. I think that anyone can do well at math but not everyone is suited to math.