An important part of reforming our societal views about math is dispelling some common misconceptions about the subject. There are several myths about math in our society that discourage people from being engaged in and enthusiastic about math. People often think that only certain people can be good at math, that speed is indicative of ability, and that you don’t need math in “real life”.
5 Common Math Myths:
- The Math Gene Myth: Some people are born “good” at math
TRUTH: This common misconception that, “I’m just not a math person”, is a harmful one. Success and ability in math is malleable, not fixed. Anyone can be good at math with practice in a supportive learning environment.
- The Myth That You Don’t Need Math: You don’t need to learn math to be successful—unless you are going to be an aerospace engineer
TRUTH: Everyone needs math and uses math. Math helps you to navigate through everyday life successfully. Each of us would be hard-pressed to think of a day that we didn’t use math. Some examples of everyday math are: going shopping, cooking, driving, telling time, estimating, etc.
- The Drill and Repeat Myth: Drill and repetition make you better at math
TRUTH: New learning does not occur as a result of repetition and drilling (flashcards, worksheets, etc). These methods of drilling often result in negative math attitudes and disengagement with the subject. These methods encourage memorization, which is not indicative of skill/conceptual knowledge (see #5).
- The “Right Way” Myth: There is only one way to solve a problem
TRUTH: There are multiple ways to solve problems based on people’s individual problem-solving skills and learning styles. The important part of math is arriving at the correct solution– not how you get there.
- The Memory and Speed Myth: Math is about memorization and speed
TRUTH: Speed is not an indicator of concept mastery. Success in math comes from understanding concepts, not memorization. A good memory is not necessary for mathematic success. Counting on your fingers shows a greater understanding of numbers/arithmetic than memorization.
Help to demystify math by dispelling these myths with your kids and students!