Math. What comes to your mind when you hear that word? For a lot of people, math brings up not-so-fond memories of frustration and confusion. Many children view math as one of the most difficult subjects they study in school. The Oxford Dictionary defines difficult as “needing much effort or skill to accomplish, deal with, or understand.” This definition helps us as teachers understand why many students struggle with math: it requires a lot of effort and a skill set that doesn’t come naturally to many students. Math also requires patience and persistence to learn and master.
Because of the difficulty of mathematics, some students often form negative attitudes towards it, which definitely affect their ability to learn and work hard. Students who have a negative attitude often think ‘This is dumb, why am I doing this? What’s the point?’ They give up before they even know what they’re capable of. In the words of Max Planck, a Nobel Prize winning-physicist, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
Not all things in life can come instantly. Most challenging things take a lot of time. Subjects like math, though hard to understand, really allow us to stretch our limits and learn how to solve problems. It teaches us persistance and how to work towards our goals. Persistence is a skill necessary in future careers, relationships, sports, playing musical instruments, or anything you ever want to do. People who can look at challenges positively and see them as adventures or opportunities to grow will be the people who change the world. They will be the people who will look difficulties in the face, stare them down, and find a way to beat them. They will be the people who solve problems.
How can teachers help students learn to like math (or at least not hate it)? Make math fun! Include puzzles, games, and interactive projects. Most importantly: be an example! In my math education class, we discussed this topic a lot. How a teacher presents math and the enthusiasm they have for it really rubs off on their students. So be positive and energetic! If you hate math, your students will too. They need a reason to enjoy it, so show them how how math can be fun! Even if you struggled with math before, be the kind of teacher that will view challenges positively and teaches their students to do the same. Do this, and you’re giving them a gift worth so much more than a grade on a test.