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Thursday, May 03, 2018

When it comes to math, attitude is everything | Roanoke Times

"When it comes to math, attitude is everything" says Esther J. Cepeda, The Washington Post Writers Group.

Photo: ADAM ZYGLIS | The Buffalo News

I’m not going to name names or call anyone out (you know who you are), but if I hear one more educator mindlessly say, “I hate math,” I think I’m going to explode.

I’m not just talking about saying “I hate math” in the teachers’ lounge or at professional-development sessions — though, trust me, I’ve heard it a ton in these places. I mean right in front of students — at school assemblies, in the hallways and, yes, in classrooms.

The last complaint I heard went like this: “I hate math because there’s only one right answer.”

“Yes,” I scream inside my head as I clench my fists in frustration. “But, almost always, there are several methods to finding that answer. Probably even one that would make perfect sense to you if you’d just stop telling yourself you ‘hate math’!”

The reason for math’s bad rap is that the very same teachers and parents who have psychic scars from their own inability to correctly memorize their multiplication tables in the fourth grade are today completely flummoxed by elementary school kids’ homework.

Contemporary math involves learning alternative ways of performing operations. For instance, multiplication is practiced by using tools like grouping, the Box Method, and a host of other avenues for doing multi-digit multiplication.

This causes non-math teachers and parents endless frustration. Just ask cartoon superhero Mr. Incredible, who, in the trailer for “Incredibles 2,” gets angry about not being able to help young Dash with his homework and snaps: “Why would they change math? Math is math!”...

Researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine recently made a direct causal link between a positive attitude toward math and achievement in the subject.

They surveyed children 7 to 10, on a variety of factors and gave them arithmetic problems and even MRI brain scans. The researchers found that “math performance correlated with a positive attitude toward math even after statistically controlling for IQ, working memory, math anxiety, general anxiety and general attitude toward academics ... Children with poor attitudes toward math rarely performed well in the subject, while those with strongly positive attitudes had a range of math achievement.”...

Follow this easy rule: If you can’t say anything nice about math, just don’t say anything at all.

Source: Roanoke Times (blog)