You’re not “Bad at Math;” You’re Just Lazy at Math

by Katie Fustich

Ahh, the age-old “I’m SO bad at math!” line. For many people, this declaration is almost like a reflex when anything to do with numbers comes up in conversation. Calculating a tip at a restaurant? “Don’t look at me! I’m so bad at math!” Grocery shopping? “So, so bad at math!” Talking about nothing math related? You get the idea.

A recent piece by Kim Z. Dale in Chicago Now’s “Listing Toward Forty” said what we all need to be thinking: Every time we say “I’m bad at math,” what we usually mean is “I didn’t like math, so I quit trying to learn it.” 

Dale expresses her frustration with the status quo of women declaring their mathematical incompetence. By chumming along with each other in a number-hating world, many women are creating a culture  in which otherwise brilliant ladies are letting themselves be disparaged by this stereotype. 

Dale references the legendary Barbie whose catchphrase “math is hard!” sparked widespread outrage. “What message would this send to young girls about their education?” cried the Angry Parent Mob. The problem Dale has is the fact that this same outrage isn’t expressed when mothers, aunts, and sisters say this same message in the presence of young girls on a daily basis. Mind blown, right?

Two math teachers recently took to The Atlantic to express similar concerns. After years of teaching the subject, they want the world to know that math is not a genetically-rooted ability. It is one based on preparation and effort. 

“People’s belief that math ability can’t change becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy,” they wisely note. 

The fact is, intelligence is an incredibly malleable facet. We have the power to be as smart as we want to be, so why would we choose to be anything less?


Thanks to Chicago Now and The Atlantic

Image via Think Progress

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