A couple of weeks ago, a fellow freelance writer wrote me about her foray into graduate school. She needed to brush up on some math skills, and she wasn’t sure how. I have a feeling that her questions weren’t unique. Whether you need to learn a little extra to help your kid with his homework or you need to take a math class to further your education, learning math again (or for the first time) can be daunting.
Luckily, my friend and fellow math blogger, Bon Crowder offered to write a guest post on this very topic. I swear, Bon and I were separated at graduation or something, because we approach math education in very similar ways. Plus she’s fun. (See? Math folks aren’t always boring and difficult to understand!)
I wanted to title this “Being a Great Adult Learner.”
But that’s dumb. All adults are great learners. If we weren’t, we’d be stumbling around, bumping into doors, starving and naked. We know how to learn, and the proof is that we’re still alive.
The question is “What makes you learn?”
1) You need confidence.
Confidence involves two things: feeling worthy and knowing you have the ability.
When people feel they’re entitled to something, they’re more likely to feel confident in getting it. Hang around any Best Buy service desk and you’ll see this in action. People say all kinds of strange things when trying to return a broken product, and these things are said with a sense of entitlement. BY GOLLY they’re going to get their way!
So how do you gain worthiness and ability? You’re worthy of it because you already have it. And you’re able to do it because you already do.
You have it all. It’s just hidden behind a wall of words you or someone else (or both) has told you for years. Now’s the time to ignore everybody, even yourself.
Because here’s the gosh-honest truth: There is not a single thing within a mathematician that is not within you.
You’ve done math since you were a kid. Even before you were in school. You knew at a deep level that if there was one toy and there was another kid around, you’d better run like the dickens to get it. There’s no dividing that toy evenly between kids.
You balance your checkbook (or you would be in jail right now), you probably have some rough idea of your gas mileage, and you know that if you have 12 people coming over, you’re going to have to double or triple that recipe for shepherds pie. You know math. Now’s the time to admit it.
So say this every night before your prayers. If you don’t pray at night, say it twice:
I do math. Today I woke up on time because I calculated how long it would take to get dressed. I knew how much money to spend because balanced my checkbook. I figured out how much weight I needed to lose – and I used math to do it.
Modify this statement to fit your lifestyle and run with it. Every night.
2) You need the right environment.
Once you’ve tapped in to the realization that you’re inherently good at math, you need the right learning environment.
This includes location, timing and the other people involved. If you have to drive too far away after working all day and all you get is a lousy quarter-pounder-with-cheese, you’re going to be tired, grumpy and irritable. If your class is full of teenagers fresh out of high school and the professor is 400 years old and believes in death by PowerPoint, things are not going to go well.
How do you know the right environment?
Look at all the learning experiences you’ve had through the years. List out the good ones and the bad ones. And then dig deep – what made the good ones good? Why were the bad ones so detrimental?
Include timing, location, student body, temperature in the room and details of the instructor. List out the attitude of the instructor, his/her teaching style, voice intonations – even how he wrote on the board.
Pick out the deal-breakers and the nice-to-haves and write them on a special piece of paper. This is your official “Environment Requirement” page. Laminate it, put it in Evernote, tatoo it to your bottom – whatever you do to keep it close so you can refer to it often.
How do you make sure your Environment Requirements are honored?
Here’s where that sense of entitlement comes back into play. If your class has a deal-breaker environment element, do something about it. Think, “If this were a faulty remote control that I bought at Best Buy, how would I handle it?”
Ask the instructor to manage the loud students better. Ask building maintenance to change the temp of the room (or bring a sweater). Don’t sign up for a class during a time when you’ll be tired, hungry and irritable.
And if you can’t change the environment – leave. Drop the class. Get your money back.
If it were a crappy remote control, that’s what you’d do, right?
And fed. You learn all the time. And you do math.
Now go find a class that fits and have fun!
Bon Crowder publishes www.MathFour.com, a math education site for parents. But that’s not all! Bon has launched a really, really, really cool initiative called Count 10, Read 10. While parents are encouraged to read to their infants, toddlers and preschoolers, we’re rarely encouraged to inject a little bit of math into the day. Bon will show you how. Take a look at her blog for more information on developing math literacy (or numeracy). I’ll be writing about this more in the coming months.