The Weebles and Wobbles of Learning Math

Developing mastery in math may feel like the wobbly balance of standing on one leg.  Frequently, while approaching more advanced math, the student may tip and topple, but this teetering is actually necessary.  It allows the shortcomings to be reveled and so they may become strengthened.

The most beautiful thing (and the most challenging thing!) about learning math is that all previous math that has been learned is reviewed.

As your student advances to more challenging topics, they may think, “oh, no!  I am not ready for this!  I don’t know this material well enough!  I’ve forgotten everything!!”  (I just heard these comments from my Algebra student this morning.)

Many intelligent people struggle to keep all the details in mind of trigonometric functions, polynomial exponents and absolute values.  One Calculus student I tutored sheepishly admitted she didn’t know how to divide a fraction by a fraction.  When I personally was in a college math class, I realized that I didn’t have “5+8” correctly memorized.  No shame in not remembering these kind of details!  Math simply doesn’t permit gaps in the learning.  All the learning of the early years is integrated into one, making review nearly automatic.

Rather than giving up when they find themselves shaky about a particular math topic, teach your student to say something like this:

*Identifying my errors is a gift that helps me learn.

*Feeling unsteady isn’t the same as being weak.  Feeling unsteady demonstrates I am challenging myself on my way to greater proficiency.

*Don’t hide the deficiencies.  The more I admit them, the more I am able to improve them.

*Math can be paced at my own speed.  I have enough time to learn deeply and carefully.  There is no time limit to learning math.

The way we talk to ourselves about our math abilities can make all the difference.

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