Feb 7, 2016

Changing Your Mind About Math?

Do we ever know where it starts? So many of us have declarations of things we hate, or things we can't do. Sometimes we know without a doubt where that hateful relationship started but sometimes we don't. I have no idea when or why I started deciding I hated math all I know is for most of my life I have vehemently declared that I hate math and that I am not good at it.

When I started back to college last September I knew Math was coming, I could not avoid it. Every week my darling Math teacher starts the week by posting inspiring notes to us for that week. The first week she told us about how she did not always love math and she explained how she came out of that phase with the help of good teachers that made her feel like she could. While describing this change that came over her she talked about how important it was to think positive. I lingered on that idea of thinking positive for a moment and then I moved on...I was pretty sure that thinking positive about Math did not apply to me.

Then in her notes to us for the next week she talked about how Math requires patience she quoted Albert Einstein who said, " It's not that I am so smart; it's just that I stay with the problems longer." Hmmm now my brain was really pondering....positive thinking? Patience? Math? Could I really do this? It would require a Herculean effort to change my thinking about Math. She really inspired me with her thoughts about patience.

I decided to put it all to the test. I had to know if I was wrong about me and math. I decided to try to say out loud that I can do Math. I determined that I needed to think positive...I can do this...not I can't do this. The little Jennifer that could. I decided to work hard and stick with the problems longer. I really do want to do well in Math. For the first few weeks of assignments and quizzes my plan seemed to be working. I carefully read everything. I did loads of practice problems on Khan Academy. I said out loud to other people that I could do Math. I begged my visiting teacher and her husband to come over and help me. I cornered a Math teacher in my church congregation and asked her to help me. I struggled. It all went well until story problems showed up. And I have to tell you I ...can't...do them. Yes, I just ruined everything and said can't. Last weekend I was in the middle of my first exam and I was staring dejectedly at the four story problems I had to answer. I had worked on them for 30 minutes and had come to the realization that I was going to have to just guess. I am so mortified about this but I guessed. I got two out of the four problems right and got 86% on my test. I hate knowing that I did not do the work to get those answers.

Throughout my whole life I have always been frustrated and sad when I want to show someone the joy of a yummy food, a hike, a view, a book, a movie, you know all those things we love to share and occasionally I would come across people who when I invited them to try they would say things to me like:
 oh I don't do that,
 I can't do that,
 I don't like that,
 never have,
 never will,
 ick.

 I know everyone can not simply like everything but maybe we can? What makes us decide to not like?  How do we decide what we can do and what we can't do? What we like and what we do not like? Is our brain really that powerful?

We had to choose a book for the personal finance part of the math class I am taking and the book I chose was a book written in the 1930's called "Think and Grow Rich." This book talks constantly...almost too constantly, about the power of our mind, our sub conscious. It insists that you simply have to tell yourself something over and over and it will be so. It claims things like,"There are no limitations to the mind except those we acknowledge." And how about this one, "Both poverty and riches are the offspring of thought." Apparently it worked for Andrew Carnegie.

What if this really works? Do we all have a super power in us that we just do not believe in? Can hard work and positive thinking be the answer...to everything? So if you do not like brussel sprouts can you change that? Can you make anything work if you want to? If I can do math after so many years of declaring that I can't there may be something to this....except when it comes to story problems :)

I have been trying to think about other things in my life that I have always declared that I do not like them or can not do them. Leftovers...I have always been pretty confident that I am not the kind of girl who eats leftovers, except leftover dessert :) Arizona...I have always declared that I do not do dry, desert, and hot all together. What has made me decide to take a stand on these things?

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