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A Look Into The Very Real Issue Of Math Trauma

December 3, 2019by Heather Linchenko0

What is it about math that gives it so much power:

1) to make kids feel inadequate and insecure about themselves,

2) to cause wounds to self worth so big that the debilitating effect of it lasts into adulthood, and

3) to put parents and kids at odds with each other until they don’t even like each other anymore.

Woah, that is a lot of power.

Being in the business of solving these precise math problems (oh yeah, and the kids will learn their times tables and division facts like nobody’s business) puts us in a unique position to hear an endless supply of stories. All people have to do is hear briefly what we’re up to and they’re eager to tell us their own “math trauma” story, quite often accompanied with some very deep emotion.

You may feel alone in how much it affected you or how worried you are about the situation with you child but we can tell you that this math trauma affects more people than you can even imagine.

Why-oh-why have we ignored this problem as a society for so long when so much damage is being done??? It makes us just that much more thrilled to be exactly where we are, doing exactly what we’re doing.

I want to talk about each of these “math trauma” aspects in turn:

 

  1. The insecurity that develops due to feeling like one of the “dumb” kids:

The subject of math is a hotbed for labels. I happened to be categorized as one of the “smart” kids simply because I did well at math. I saw a lot of the trauma around me but I didn’t relate to it—that is, not until I was in college taking a French class.

The teaching style here was different and suddenly I was one of the “dumb” ones. I was so confused at first (wait a minute, I’m supposed to be smart!), then I felt sad that I couldn’t keep up with everyone (What is wrong with me?? Am I stupid or something?), then I got angry (There is no way even possible, no matter how hard I try, for me to keep up!). I remember folding my arms and sliding down in my chair and though I was still in the room, simply checking out of the class. I felt ashamed of myself, mad at the students who were doing well, and hateful at my teacher for…I don’t know, existing!

Then I remembered. I thought back on the body language that those kids growing up who didn’t do well at school (as I said, math seemed to be the biggest determiner of that); their bodies and faces looked just like mine did right then! I related only now the feelings they had to go through and my heart poured out to every single one of them!

It is NO FUN TO FEEL DUMB!!! I realized how this feeling of “I can’t do it; I can’t keep up,” could change the trajectory of a whole life!

I thought, What does “smart” and “dumb” even mean, anyway?? Maybe there is no such thing!! Reminding myself that I’d gotten good grades in school, I realized I wasn’t actually dumb right now any more than the discouraged kids I saw growing up were actually dumb then! It was all about teaching style and design!

At this moment, I became a collector of teaching and learning philosophies, an experimenter. Planted deeply in me was an intense desire that no child ever had to feel this way!

After 30 years of this focus, a whole new teaching style has emerged that works beautifully for all kids. We are calling this method “Unleashed Learning” and for the sake of kids, and the parents who care so much about them, we are intent on spreading this teaching method as widely as possible. We hope to play a part in revamping the current culture of education.

By the way, though you don’t have to understand the philosophies that power MathHacked before taking your child through it, you will get to experience this revolutionary learning style first-hand. All you do is watch and mimic, step by step, what you see me do on-line. No previous math knowledge is necessary. We developed our first “Unleashed Learning” tool for math (MathHacked), because we wanted to provide a simple solution for the biggest problem first!

So far, we’ve had universal success in seeing each and every child feel smart at math using our system. With the right educational design and an effective teaching style in place (neither of which are found in any math curriculum, by the way), your child will show no resistance from the very first moments of the training. In fact, they’ll likely be bummed out when it’s over.

 

  1. The lasting effect of negative labels:

In my quest to help all people recognize and feel their worth, I began to notice something interesting. It started with a friend of mine whom I thought was just brilliant—so creative and so organized and just chock full of talent. But she made a lot of comments about how she wasn’t very “smart” or “quick” or that she was a “slow learner.” This made absolutely no sense to me! I could see no evidence of this whatsoever. Finally, I asked her, “Why in the world do you believe you’re not smart?? Where does this feeling come from??” It turned out that she “didn’t do very well in school”…and added, “well, mostly in math.”

Then I began to ask around and to notice this more and more this very same thing. The root source of a lack of belief in self FAR TOO OFTEN stems from the early math experience.

Sometimes the “I’m not smart” label is self-imposed just from the way math makes the child feel; other times, it’s a fellow student, and more often a teacher that said something that got stuck in the child’s psyche making them doubt their abilities from that time on (GRRRR!!!!).

As mentioned, these kids-now-adults often feel to tell us their stories. After one presentation, we had a person seek us out after the meeting and tell of his experience. He had a teacher tell him he wasn’t good at math when he was just a young boy and he said that this haunting label followed him all through grade school, all through high school, all through college and he almost didn’t go to grad school because he just didn’t believe he could do it. He struggled for such a long time over this issue before he finally pushed past his insecurities and decided to try.

He not only accomplished grad school, he received some of the highest grades in his program, and he couldn’t have been more surprised. By the time we met him, he was a very successful professional and just in the telling of this story, his eyes got moist with emotion. Not only was he reliving those feelings, he was actually very grateful and genuinely appreciative to us for what we were doing for kids.

Here’s a message we got from a gentleman, now a grandpa, who saw our system online: “I was one of the dumb kids when it came to math. I can completely relate to what you are describing. It took me years to realize that I loved to learn and I was a lot smarter than I ever thought I was! I got all choked up when I saw your program this morning! God bless you and the MathHacked Girls!!!!” ~Ben Smith

One woman who came up to us at a vendor table after a homeschool conference said she had a form of PTSD [Post-traumatic stress disorder] due to her early math experience. We laughed but she didn’t laugh with us; she was dead serious. She was willing to do just about anything to save her kids from going through the math trauma that she experienced. In fact, this was the main reason she had chosen to homeschool her children!

Honestly, I could go on and on with stories, but hopefully you will see from the few given here that if your child is currently dealing with an “I’m not smart” label because of math, that there is something that can be done about it and it takes only about 15 minutes a day. It’s the learning design and teaching style embodied in our easy to follow on-line system, MathHacked.

 

  1. The “relationship trauma” that so often accompanies the “math trauma”:

One day, my daughter’s friend came to our house and saw that our big patio window had graphs and arrows written all over it with dry erase markers. This was from a day of brainstorming with my sister (and biz partner) about our MathHacked business. Naturally, he was curious what we were up to. When he heard a few minutes of explanation of what our business was and that our aim was to help kids maintain a sense of self-worth throughout their math education, he was instantly enthusiastic and supportive.

His very next comment was (pointing his hands downward like a wedge), “Math was the WEDGE that drove my dad and me apart.” He said he never did regain a good relationship with his dad; this was the beginning of a downward spiral that had never fully recovered.

This is another common story. The problem with math is that it isn’t just about math; it’s about how the heck do you get kids to do what you want them to do when they don’t want to do it??? (The answer to this question is found in no math book I’ve ever heard about.) Even if parents know the math well enough to help, they can feel at a loss as to how to motivate the little buggers to DO the math!

Our Unleashed Learning style—which you get to “try on for size” through the MathHacked system—takes care of that attitude for you. It removes resistance. It unleashes creativity and self-worth and the hidden brilliance that they normally reserve for their computer games or other things they love doing.

You know, it’s funny; the whole reason we make our kids do their math homework is:

  • so they can get competent and feel smart in math,
  • so they will feel smart generally,
  • so they can become an educational success,
  • so they can become a financial success,
  • so they can have lives with less stress,
  • making it easier to be “happy at home” with their families.

This is the end result!

And yet, our well-meaning efforts with math often leave our kids

  • feeling dumb and angry at us for making them do it,
  • so we try to use our parental authority to make it happen,
  • so they blame us and we become the bad guy,
  • which feels unfair because we are only trying to help,
  • which unfairness adds to our negative feelings,
  • and all this makes us feel unhappy at home!

Hm….something is wrong with this picture.

Well, know this: it’s not your fault; it’s not your child’s fault.

With the right design and style in place—same parent, same kid—you’ll get results you’ll LOVE!

And you and your child will be HAPPY AT HOME.


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