Join our bloggers as they share their experiences on the challenges and joys of helping children succeed in school.
Most people feel strongly that they are either good at math or that they are terrible at it. They think that math ability is genetic and cannot be changed. An interesting new research study suggests that this might not be true.
Scientists tested students on a variety of math concepts. They tested some of the same concepts with number problems and word problems. Many times the students could work the problem if it was just a number problem, but they could not work it if it was in a word problem. The data also shows that there was not much correlation between various concepts in math. This means most people could easily work certain kinds of problems and not others.
Research like this often creates more questions than it answers. For example, why could a person work number problems but not word problems that require the exact same math concept? (Could difficulty with reading be the issue? Was it too much information to hold at one time in working memory? How can someone be good at working algebra but not geometry? Is it because the two types of math are really very different from one another? Is it because some underlying knowledge needed in the geometry is missing?) These questions are not specifically answered in the research, but it does offer some interesting findings.
The researchers feel their research gives hope to those who feel they are not good in math. Many students in their study could do some kinds of math but not others. The researchers believe this relates to how much time and practice the students had on the various concepts. They believe that most people can do well in math if given enough time to practice. They do not feel it relates to genetics. You are not born good at math; you get good at math with practice.
I suggest that students should keep practicing math problems from the various types of math. There are many apps available for free or very little money. Here is a review of five apps for middle school students, and here are some for upper school students. Find an app that is fun to use that keeps earlier math skills fresh. There is a good chance that you will become a better math student if you are willing to do some additional practice.