Two months ago I wrote a post called “Math Brink” touching on the sometimes confusing nature of mathematics. Even if math comes easily to you, I would imagine that if you continued taking higher and higher levels of college math, you too would discover what it’s like to reach your math brink. At least that’s what happened to me… and lots of my friends.

But part of me wonders if the reason plenty of people just don’t “like” math has more to do with repeated failure than with the nature of mathematics. I mean, who likes to experience failure in something over and over? It all starts when a student has some negative experiences in a math class or with a particular teacher. This can set off a chain of dominoes that land a student in remedial math classes convinced that he is just not good at math. The student avoids homework and doesn’t participate in class, if he even shows up. But is he trying to avoid math or avoid failure? Due to his past experiences, there is such a close connection between the two that he could use the words math and failure interchangeably.

But, what if he experienced success in math class? How might that change a student’s mindset toward math? One success might have little impact, but what if the successes came more often? Granted this is all conjecture, but I think a student’s attitude toward math is far more significant than whatever innate ability the student may have.

In their frustration, it may be a student’s sense of humor that gets him through a tough math class:

And I haven’t even mentioned anything about how it is acceptable to say, “Uggh! I hate math!” or “I’m no good at math” or “Math just isn’t my thing,” as if people were proud of that fact. However, what would people think if someone said, “Reading- I’m no good at that!” or “Reading just isn’t my thing”? I’ll leave that discussion for another day.