Attitude Affects Ability

“Advanced math is not only for rocket scientists.” A recent article in The Washington Post reported on methods to introduce fifth and sixth grade students to algebra in an effort to have American youth become less math phobic and more engaged in higher math. Raytheon, a Massachusetts-based company, is in the forefront of the celebrating math ability. They sponsor celebrities from athletes to actors to demonstrate the importance of math in their fields and in life. Making math less mysterious may go a long way to improving motivation, which affects math ability.
A 2007 study at Stanford University demonstrated the power of motivation in a curious way. They followed the academic progress of two groups of New York City seventh graders. One group received an introduction to the “changing nature of intelligence” (that the brain forms new connections when learning ) at the beginning of the school year. The control group did not receive this information. By the end of the school year, the first group improved their math grades more than the control group, whose math ability declined. Another informal survey by The Washington Post in Fairfax, Virginia, examined students’ attitudes toward math and their performance. Not surprisingly, those who enjoy math say it makes sense, while those who don’t like it find it hard and confusing.
Rather than commiserating with their children about the difficulties of math, parents would be wise to encourage them to change their attitudes. Like anything else—athletics, music, art–math takes practice. As a famous athletic-wear motto says, “Just do it!”

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