Mathematical illiteracy: is it just a state of mind?

2 min read

Today, we explore why it’s so popular to say, “I’m not good at maths”.

“Dad, can you help me with my literacy homework?” a child asks. “I’d love to,” the father replies, “but I can’t read.” A situation like this is something we can barely imagine to be real, at least not in a developed country like the UK. Why, then, is it a different story when it comes to maths?

Many parents have no problem outing themselves as not being “good at maths”, so it’s no surprise when children begin to label themselves in a similar way. After all, we all want to be like our mums and dads when we’re young, don’t we? But that simple thought can have a much bigger effect when the child enters the classroom.

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Teachers have a difficult enough job as it is, but trying to teach maths to students who have already convinced themselves they won’t be good at it makes things even trickier. The million dollar question is how we combat their mindset to show them the amazing feats they can accomplish both in and away from the classroom.

Good feedback and encouragement are, as ever, important. Maths isn’t just about the destination, but the journey that goes along with it, and that means the amount of effort being put in is something to be celebrated. Congratulating effort helps boost student confidence, which in turn makes them feel brave enough to continue challenging themselves, unafraid of being wrong when they know it will help them eventually be right.

There is also the fact that maths is such a broad subject that can be tied to so many aspects of life. This relevance to everyday life is key; if a student sees an immediate benefit to understanding a concept (e.g. knowing how to add up the correct change in order to buy a pack of sweets!), they’ll be able to engage in a more meaningful way.

Alongside this, teachers also have the tools to present a diverse lesson. Worksheets, interactive whiteboards, tablet apps, and hands-on tools like Cuisenaire rods mean one concept can be taught in many ways to reinforce understanding and promote mastery.

Ultimately, parents and teachers need to team up to make sure maths doesn’t continue to be one of those subjects that people shy away from. If that enthusiasm for numbers doesn’t start in the home, there’s no reason it can’t be taken there from a classroom.

Article by DoodleMaths

Doodle empowers learners to achieve confidence in maths and English. Our intelligent technology creates individual work programmes which are motivational, affordable and convenient to use.