In class, the new topic had only one difference to material we studied two tests ago; it included fractions.  Oh, the weeping and the wailing!  This is a college credit course.  The college students were complaining about fractions!  In the state of Florida, adding, subtracting and multiplying fractions is a fourth grade skill!

Now, other cultures have found the secret to being good at math.  Truly.  Earlier in this decade, there were two interesting studies of cultures who have been stereotyped as producers of good mathematicians.  One of these studies determined that the society’s ability to produce such good mathematicians that it became a stereotype was NOT genetic.  However, it was cultural.   A second study set out to determine the secret.  The secret is…there is no secret.  The cultural difference is that people from the mathematically superior culture do not classify themselves as being good or bad at mathematics.  It is merely something to be done.  To paraphrase, it is not a talent, but a skill.

That makes perfectly good sense.  For example, I am blonde and female.  Therefore, I shouldn’t be good at math…yet it is my profession.  I had no idea that I was destined to be stereotypically bad at math.  I have a scholarly father and a diligent mother.  Doing less that one’s best in any area was certainly less than acceptable.  Heaven forbid I might have figured out that a blonde girl wasn’t supposed to be good at math.  I would have had to pick a different career!

So, back to my frustration with students who I feel have been handicapped by a culture.  Math is hard?  No, not really.  Even if math were hard, who cares?  Is riding a bike hard?  Ask any kid who is learning.  It requires the use of many skills simultaneously.  Children practice until they master the skill anyway.  Math is no different.  Do you know what else is hard?  Getting the bristles of a toothbrush to fit where my wisdom teeth touch my gums…but I do it anyway.  Why?  Because it is the task at hand.  A task’s difficulty is not a reason not to complete it!  It is equally ludicrous not to work at building a mathematical skill set because it is “hard.”

Math students in this society have tricked themselves into believing that math is “hard” or “useless” (oh, I shouldn’t get started on that soap box!) and therefore, it is socially acceptable not to develop the skills set.  Oh well.  The cultures who treat math like a task and not a mere talent currently hold the majority of our national debt, another is a leader in innovations and another does our tech support.  Maybe they can teach us how to study math when they replace us as a world power.