Education and numeracy blogger Damon Whitten has spent the last few months with his head inside a bunch of interview data from adult learners talking about their maths background.
It’s not particularly cheery in terms of findings. According to Damon:
Self-worth is tied up with academic performance – especially mathematics. … Societal beliefs about what mathematics is and what it means to be good or bad at mathematics has damaged some of us. And may still be doing so.
If you’re like a lot of people, the maths classes you experienced in school messed you up. Big time.
And the main culprit was probably your high school maths teacher. I know I hold one of mine personally responsible. Fifth form. No names mentioned here…
Check out the rest of Damon’s post to read John’s tragic tale. I guess he’s a composite character. But his story is one you might relate to. I know I can.
My fifth form maths teach actually said, “Only some of you are going to pass school C, I’m going to teach to them, the rest of you try to keep up”.
I remember thinking, “Um, I’m pretty sure I’m not part of the group that’s going to make it”.
I don’t blame her, she was right in a way. But in saying those words she kind of locked it in right from the start of the year.
Actually, following that logic, right at the start of school you could say, “Right, half of you are going to fail school big time, most of you will be working in dead end jobs until you finally die. But some of you will do great.”.
[gulp] between that at one extreme and the line of “each of you is a unique and special snowflake with infinite potential who should follow their dreams to the moon”… it’s hard to know what to say to kids at high school.
What about: “the third of you who are really succeeding right now… well just to let you down gently… your present school success actually has no bearing on your future work and life success…” Nope that won’t fly either.
Or what about: “hey dummies in the group…! You’re more likely to avoid the crushing debt of a student loan and eventually start or own your own business as tradesperson. Just don’t blow your still maturing brain on booze and drugs. Keep grinding and by the time you’re 35 it’s be sweet as…!” Ummm… nope can’t see that winning hearts and minds either.
Or even “Hey, instead of this maths class you have to go on a compulsory 1 year internship working in a nonprofit organisation or business overseas in a country where English is a second or other language”
Or: “You’re gonna do a 6 month stint working in sales of some kind in a local business dealing with grumpy crappy customers every day”
Sadly, truth is smart means unemployable. Too smart to be harassed into working for someone else for low wages and too smart to fall for abusive employer tactics.. much of the equipment made for most jobs is geared (respectfully) for the person who is mentally on the low end of the formal education and social ladder. Jobs are now with people who will work in dangerous situations and not complain about the lack of compensation.. more than likely if you have internet.. your manufacturing jobs, engineering jobs…and etc are outsourced to a country without communication abilities. And all those math subjects that the teachers were trying to get everyone to learn are programmed on someone’s software. If you did learn it..your boss will want the computer to do because it will be 99.9% more accurate and more accessible.. than your calculations by hand. too bad these teachers weren’t encouraging leaders and more business owners instead of the model factory workers from the industrial revolution… you know where public and private schools still get their learning techniques from.
Hey thanks for the comments…! Kind regards, Graeme