• Christian Paul

The Myths of Learning Maths

Updated: Oct 25, 2019

There are many myths and beliefs about learning Mathematics that can often be discouraging to a ‘normal’ student. These ideas are often spawned out of observing the ‘smart kids’ in class, and thinking “I wish I could do Maths like they can”. Some of these even parents sometimes have a hard time understanding what is actually happening. Here I hope to dispel some of the unnecessary beliefs and myths about learning Maths.

Even parents sometimes have a hard time understanding what is actually happening. Here I hope to dispel some of the unnecessary beliefs and myths about learning Maths.

Myth 1: That person is good at Maths because he/she can work things out in their head

This is one of the most common beliefs regarding being ‘smart’ or ‘clever’. Everyone always believes that someone is surely a whiz at Maths just because they can add big numbers together in their head. While it is true that this is certainly a handy skill to have, it is not a sure sign of Mathematical knowledge, nor is it a necessary skill.

It’s also common to believe they are simply talented. 90% of the time, this skill comes from a great deal of practice, time, and patience. There are strategies that exist to make this process quite simple, and students who do working out in their head usually capitalise on these ideas. But it can backfire (with sometimes disastrous consequences).

Working sums (or anything really) in your head is a sure way to start making silly mistakes. Pen and paper take the strain off of your mind. By writing things down rather than trying to remember them, you give your brain the space it needs to focus on the big problems, not just the small steps you’re taking.

This is where the ones who are ‘clever’ will work numbers out in their head. The ones who are good at Maths will be able to do this, but will rarely rely on it, and will use a pen and paper to minimise the risk of mistakes, and use these tools in order to focus on more challenging ideas.

Myth 2: My brain just isn’t made for Maths.

You’ve been doing Maths since before you could walk. Ever since the concept was introduced (probably through one of your early childhood toys or TV shows), you’ve been counting things. This is where your Maths started. If your mind ‘isn’t made to do Maths’, this is because you choose to make that true.

Maths is never something that can be just ‘understood’ without any effort, but this doesn’t mean you’re incapable of any understanding at all. If you feel that you aren’t a Maths person, and then challenge yourself to be. You don’t know what you can accomplish. Just think about this:

The human body is not made to travel more than about 40-60 kilometres per hour, seeing as we can’t run faster than about 55kms/hr. But we found ways to go faster. We didn’t like our limits, so we pushed, shoved, and fought until we broke them. Why can’t the same be true of your ability to do Maths?

Myth 3: He’s so smart; he wouldn’t even have to study.

This one is a big one. The biggest one even. It cannot be said enough that not studying is NOT a sign of understanding and competence.

In reality, it is the polar opposite. The ones who cope the best throughout exams and tests are generally not the ones who answer all the questions in class. The student who outperforms those students will be the one who asks questions instead, who works hard at home and school. The one who doesn’t know everything, but who strives to, and uses all the tools at their disposal to do so. The work really does pay off!

If you know someone who doesn’t study but still does better than you even if you do study, don’t worry; There will come a time when you surpass them with ease, and while you feel confident and positive, they will understand the value of the hard work they neglected to do.

And that’s only to name a few…

There are other rumours and myths surrounding Maths, particularly regarding study strategies and discipline. I have aimed to outline some of the biggest ones. If you can overcome these imaginary ideas, you will find that Maths really is much simpler than you first thought and that you aren’t as silly as you might have expected.


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