Singapore Math Guru

“I Hate Math” Is Just An Excuse These Days. Learn How To Identify And Overcome Negative Attitudes Towards Math

I HATE MATH!

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When a student comes up to me and says “I just can’t solve this question”, I examine two things. One. Is the student even trying? Two. Has the student exhausted all options before coming to the point of quitting. For the supposedly weaker students, a lot of times, it is the lack of enthusiasm, desire, willingness, patience to sit through the question, break it up into its respective bits, analyzing the question, processing it, basically, just finding a way to solve it. All of the above takes a certain attitude of determination and patience.

Child gives up too easily

If you find that your child gives up easily on his or her math questions, you have something to be worried about. And I don’t say this to scare you into buying more assessment books and examination papers. I say this because weaker students are really just those that have not cultivated the right attitudes towards Mathematics as a subject.

And we do not think we are alone with regards to our opinions.

Popular belief has it that one has to have a certain flair and natural ability in math for one to do well. And as teachers, we say that is totally false. The idea that being good in math can only help a student so much. A student who has natural ability in math has no issues with the lower primary levels and grades. But when it comes to the upper primary level, you have students who are naturally good in math coming home from school, crying because they got only 60 marks out of a 100 for a primary 5 mid-year examination. This is the reality of it.

But what you do see is that students with supposed ability in math try just a little harder. They succeed in little steps, solving a question at a time. Over time, those mini successes will build confidence, inculcate patience and a never say die attitude. So it is not really the natural ability but it is the attitude.

But for those who hate math, they just give up easily, not because they are not as good but rather, the attitude they take is not conducive to solving math questions, especially those with increasing difficulty. For these students, Math may just be plain painful for them and causes them much anxiety. In fact, there is a tangible study done on math anxiety, which hurts the brain and causes poor performance in math. It is entitled “When Math Hurts: Math Anxiety Predicts Pain Network Activation in Anticipation of Doing Math 

If you feel that your child falls into the category where they need a more positive attitude, I suggest family bonding time and really talking to your child to find out what is wrong. And for a moment here, disregard the results bur rather praise the effort because effort is what is important here.

Different orientation towards math as a subject

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According to research done by Patricia Linehan from Purdue University, she mentions that there 2 types of orientation towards math, incremental orientation and entity orientation. Students with an incremental orientation towards math believe that the more they practice, they better they get at math. Conversely, students with entity orientation can’t see themselves getting better even if they practice.

A student with entity orientation is thus less motivated and possibly more depressed at the thought of solving math questions.

 

Hard work is a greater determinant to math success than natural ability

 

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At least, research has validated that the above statement is correct. In a study done by tracking the grade of 3520 students over 5 years in the US, researchers found that students who perform better in math generally work harder and put in more effort.

The long and short of it is this. Put in more effort and you will improve in math. But if you don’t do so , expect inferior grades. It is really simple.

 

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