Are you guilty of telling yourself that you’re “bad at math”? How about this surefire creativity-killer: “I hate math.” The good news is that neither is true, but as long as you keep feeding your brain with these kinds of thoughts, you will prevent yourself from realizing your true potential. No one is “bad” at math, any more than they are “bad” at speaking Swahili; if you are not fluent it is just because you haven’t learned it. And if you think that you “hate” math, what you really hate is the tortuous, ineffective practices that you have been exposed to in the name of education.
We all have an innate ability to understand and even appreciate mathematical reasoning, just as we all have an innate ability to understand and appreciate art and language. Interest is the primary factor influencing how easily we are able to learn something, so if your natural interest and curiosity has been marred by negative associations, then you will find learning anything to be a struggle. Once this damage is undone then you will see that you have as great an ability as anyone to learn anything. The next most important factor influencing learning is the method of presentation. Even with very strong interest, it would be very difficult (though not impossible) to learn to play the piano with your feet. Unfortunately, in any standardized educational setting, a teacher must present the material in a standardized way in the hopes of making it accessible to as many students as possible, but since no two students learn in exactly the same way, there are always students who are left out. (What would happen to a teacher who consistently gave A’s to every student?) So, if you are one of the students who always feels “left out” in math classes, it does not mean that there is something wrong with your ability to learn, just that the methods of presentation used have not been effective for you (and perhaps there are some mental blocks caused by lingering negative associations as well). This is why individualized instruction is so important. A teacher with a limited repertoire of teaching methods and a wide range of students to educate must assume “well, these methods work with most students, but not with this one, so there must be something wrong with him”. On the other hand, a tutor with only one student to pay attention to and no limitations on teaching methods has the freedom to assume, “well, these methods haven’t worked with this student, but some will, and I’m going to find them”. Thus, rather than effective and ineffective students, a caring, patient, attentive tutor sees only effective and ineffective teaching strategies.
- How to Choose a Private Tutor for Your Child (lifehack.org)