David Kwong’s Ted Talk beautifully illustrates that we are all problem-solvers by nature. So why do some students shut down with mathematics?

I’m amazed how often people feel the deep down desire to exclaim, “I’m not a math person!” After all, math is far more than merely paying a bill, balancing a budget, or calculating taxes. For thousands of years, Geometry and Algebra have been vehicles for making sense out of the world around us. Probability is present anywhere we try to estimate predictions. Statistical analysis is key to the world of medicine. We owe it to our students to help them recognize that mathematics has evolved over thousands of years, with successive discoveries and conjectures being built on others’ earlier work.

Back to the original question of shutting down, surely many factors exist. I know that science comes a lot harder to me that math, so I am much more likely to persist in mathematics and try to blend in as much as possible in a science class. Put another way, if I were to try driving a stick-shift and didn’t figure it out right away, I’d be too embarrassed to be comfortable staying in that situation very long.

This Presentation (PPTX) from The University of Wisconsin-Madison is more good reading on the learning of mathematics. Go Badgers!

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