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When does your mind rebel?

? eBay and Meet-up hook up |


| Elephant in the Room ?

March 11, 2006

When does your mind rebel?

Stephen Baker

I've been thinking a lot recently about why I was a near failure in math. A lot of it has to do with my inability in my teenage years to quash a mutiny in my head. Whenever I saw a page with formulas on in, I would immediately be overcome with impatience and frustration. Instead of thinking, "How do I do this?" I would think: "Why do I have to do this, I hate doing this, this is hard..." Then I would turn the page. I face the same paralyzing thought process when dealing with Ikea assembly instructions. Even surfing to this very interesting site of tying shoes, (ex Joho), I'm daunted by the challenge of bending my mind to enter this spacial world. (So instead of taking time to study the shoelace diagrams, I blog about it. Diagrams=hard, words=easy)

One key to education is teaching people to do stuff they hate, to stick with something when every bone in their body is screaming scram. I talk to foreign mathematicians about why other countries breed more of their kind. Do they have better ways of teaching math in India or Romania? Most of them say no. The message in their cultures, they say, is that math may be boring, it may be hard, but kids just have to learn it. Tough. And eat those brussel sprouts, too.

Finding a passion is terrific. Everyone should do it. But everyone should also be equipped to tackle the stuff they hate. This ability is a great liberator. Those who can master what they hate are free. They have confidence that can learn or do virtually anything. They're not fenced in by their preferences. And sometimes when they tackle something they hate, they end up loving it.

I'm making progress in this area. I do Ikea furniture now. I'm diving into math for the book I'm writing. But given a choice between studying that shoelaces page and going off for a cup of coffee... well that's a no-brainer. That'll be a triple latte, please.

10:06 AM


Hello, has straight time and looks around into English speaking Blogs in such a way. To arrange Holle me suggestions around also German Blogs. Unfortunately there is not as clasp-rich Blogs in Europe as English until soon and tschuess Manuel

Posted by: Manuel at March 11, 2006 07:34 PM

In my experience, I never dived into math until much later in life after my school years when I got into black and white photography. Understanding exposure requires a great deal of math - specifically logerithims and such. So all of a sudden it was like a lightbulb went off in my head and I understood what my 10th grade math teacher was trying to drill into my adolescent brain.

So I suppose it's about experience and context.

Posted by: david parmet at March 12, 2006 08:44 AM

I like the idea that learning to do stuff you really don't like can be liberating and empowering. A good selling point. I'll try it with journalism faculty who are reluctant to learn new technologies, as well as with recalcitrant students. (Now if only I could convince myself to apply it to financial planning.)

Posted by: Cynthia at March 12, 2006 05:45 PM

Personally, I believe it's both how society and - by extension - the U.S. educational system regard mathematics. Math is almost always regarded as "difficult" and almost never as "fun". The perception becomes the reality. It doesn't have to be this way.

Posted by: csven at March 12, 2006 06:40 PM

Stephen, you wrote "Finding a passion is terrific. Everyone should do it. But everyone should also be equipped to tackle the stuff they hate. This ability is a great liberator."

SO TRUE !!!!!

Posted by: Donny H at March 17, 2006 06:22 AM

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