I've been hearing a lot recently about difficulties with either learning or teaching Mathematics. Some of the things I've been hearing really bug me: things like "I'm just no good at math", or "Math is just not my thing". I hear this from students and teachers alike (and not just here...at work as well). Would you admit to not being able to read? To me, hearing these things is just like hearing somebody say "I'm just not good at reading" or "reading just isn't my thing". I'm not talking about advanced mathematics, but basic arithmetic. Anyway, I decided to share something that might help people out with their students' (or their own) attitudes and views about mathematics. This is reproduced with permission of the author. Myths and Misperceptions in Mathematics Math is impossible to understand unless you have a “math brain” This is not true. While it is true that some people like math more than others, anybody can at least become proficient at math. Classroom math is just a formalization of things we do in everyday life. Some examples: planning a trip (distance formula, lines, solving for an unknown), grocery shopping (basic arithmetic, decimals, and percentages), shopping sales (addition, percentages), household budget (systems of equations), and cooking (fractions). I’m just dumb when it comes to math. Many people have themselves convinced they’re just “math idiots”. This is one of the most damaging things a student can think. Unfortunately, the power of the mind is amazing, and if you tell yourself that you’re never going to learn something, you probably won’t. Once you fall behind, you can never catch up. While it may not be easy to catch up if you fall behind, with a little work and a lot of time, you CAN catch up. Learning math is like learning to play a sport. You have to practice it. If you fall behind, you just have to devote more time to practicing the material you haven’t yet learned, and then learn the new material. Men are naturally better at math than women. We hear a lot about how men are better than women at math and math related subjects. There is some factual basis to this myth in that men do tend to do better in logic based subjects; however, much of this can be attributed to societal expectation. It hasn’t been too long since it was considered a waste of time to teach women math. Girls were taught basic arithmetic and that was it. Boys, however, were expected to learn math and for the most part they did. Unfortunately today, both boys and girls struggle with math, but for different reasons. Girls are taught that they have to fight nature to learn math and boys believe that they don’t really need it, so both genders don’t do as well as they could. Obviously, girls can and do learn math. There are many great female mathematicians both presently and in the past. The only thing that these women did differently is that they refused to believe what society was telling them. Math isn’t really that useful in everyday life. As discussed above, math is used frequently in everyday life. You can’t get through a single day (unless you sleep the whole day) without using a fair amount of math. Recently I gave a class an assignment to pay attention to when they used math in the course of their day. They had to keep a “math journal” for one day. The journals were very enlightening to them. They found math in places they expected, such as the gas pump and the grocery store, and also in places that they never expected, such as deciding whether or not they had time to go out with friends or if they could get home to watch a favorite TV show.