The Math Gene

I have heard it time and time again……

Go ask your Mother! I don’t get math, she has the math gene in the family.

Time and time again I hear adults make similar statements, they aren’t good at math and that is due to some missing genetic code in their DNA make-up. It is an easy way to explain how some individuals are so good with numbers and some are not.

But it is not an accurate statement, and it not only continues to allow generations of people with math anxiety to hide from the problem, but it is also helping a whole new generation start to develop their own math anxiety.

To be clear, there is no math gene! It has been scientifically proven and stated.

None at all.

But the idea helps to bring light to a darker issue, why some people are so averse to working with math that they actually actively avoid it at all costs. Adults all over the globe have started to come out of the closet with the true issue here, the fact that they suffer from math anxiety, and we are not talking about a joking aversion to numbers, but a legitimate fear of them.

It comes from the methods that were used to teach most of us math, the “old math” as the media has recently coined it in comparison to the “new math” that students are now learning. It is, in fact, that old math that has created this math anxiety that much of our population silently suffers with. If you look through popular movie references to math, it is repeated time and time again……as a community, many of us don’t really get math!

Many of you were taught similar to me, we learned a variety of rules and procedures in order to come up with answers to questions involving multiplication, division, and a variety of operations with fractions (you all know a rhyme for how to divide fractions). These rules and procedures are great for getting a correct answer on a regular basis, but where they fail is in thinking mathematically. These systems are all based on a set of rules, rules that really have nothing to do with math and more to do with a regular set of procedures in order to get an accurate answer.

Algorithms actually were created long ago by mathematicians as a way of helping people who knew very little about math get accurate math answers. Somewhere along the way, it became how we define math, and that is why many of us admit confusion when trying to answer some algebraic question that our Gr. 8 child is having trouble with. We weren’t allowed to visually see the math and slowly work with it, we never got into the learning pit and struggled with the math itself, we were just shown the bridge that went right over the pit and told to follow these rules when multiplying fractions all the time and everything will be great.

We need to get back to just working with the math, bringing it all to a visual medium and allow our brains the time to see what is happening with each operation to make sense of it. The algorithm is a great tool, but should only be used once the meaning behind it is better understood. This way, we have an understanding of the math and what the answer actually represents as well as the set of rules that will help us get the answer regularly.

But how does this have anything to do with the math gene part?

Well, not only is there no such thing as the math gene, but research also shows that the brain is constantly looking to build new neural pathways and grow stronger connections between neurons, which also means that everyone, at any age, is able to practice and get better at working with math.

Children need to believe that they can get better at math, because just like anything, the more you practice effectively, the better you will get at it! If your child hears that you aren’t good at math and never have been, or that someone in the family has always just been good at it, it sets the tone for them to also start believing this concept, and therefore not want to go through the struggle of math at, in the end, they don’t have a math mind, and therefore don’t, and won’t ever, get math either.

It is important to think about the messages we are sending our children, not just by what we are saying, but also by what we are doing. Everyone is able to understand math, we just have to get back to looking at things the way mathematicians look at them, starting with visual representations to develop a solid understanding, and then start working with algorithms and shortcuts that allow us to get the answer faster.

This ability for everyone to work with and enjoy math is why Dropkick math doesn’t just want to tutor your child, we want to help the family better understand how math works and rid the world of math anxieties.

Let’s give math the beating it deserves.

Dropkick math