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The 12 Math Myths & What You CAN Think Instead

Updated: Aug 22, 2022

I absolutely love this text Mind Over Math
It has transformed how I approach any math problem, and how I teach my students to approach any problem...ArT

1. Men are better at math than women. Instead...

  • Realize that research can not show any difference between the academic ability of men and women.

  • Just view math as a creative endeavor and let your intuition be your guide.

2. Math only uses logic, never intuition. Instead...

  • Listen to Einstein. He said, "to these elementary laws (of physics) there leads no logical path, but only intuition supported by being sympathetically in touch with experience."

  • Another popular guy, Newton, who could give no mathematical explanation for his ideas, until over two hundred years when his work could even be "proved."

  • Listen to those answers that just pop into your head, that's your intuition talking.

3. You must always know how you got your answer. Instead...

  • Remember that when you are consistently right, then you already know how to solve the problem, why stress over explaining it.

  • Know that getting the answer and explaining how you got it are two different processes, where one uses logic and the other intuition.

4. Math is never creative. Instead...

  • View math as an art, a blank canvas that you can paint any way you want. Creativity is as foundational to mathematics as it is to art, literature, and music.

  • Recognize the moments that when you solve a problem, that is you being in touch with the originality of your work.

5. There is a best method for solving math problems. Instead...

  • Take advantage of the blank canvas in front of you.

  • The best method is the method you feel most comfortable using PERIOD.

  • Not sure which method is best for you? Try a few, several if you are feeling motivated, and decide which one you liked the most. Remember, there is no rule that says you have to stick with the same method every time either.

6. It’s important to get the answer exactly right. Instead...

  • Realize that this is why you are stressed.

  • Also, most applicable mathematics' problems are complex, and their answer is approximate.

  • Why? because the "exact" answer can often not be determined.

7. Finger counting is bad. Instead...

  • Use your fingers! It is a sign of understanding arithmetic. More so than pushing buttons on a calculator, don't you think?

  • More so than memorizing too.

8. Mathematicians can do problems quickly in their head. Instead...

  • Mathematicians can only do the problems they have practiced repeatedly, quickly in their head.

  • Don't use your pace as a measure of your ability.

  • There is no way to predict how long it will take to solve a problem.

9. You need a good memory to do math. Instead...

  • Don't memorize. Compare learning math to learning how to speak a language.

  • It is something that should become natural to you, where the formulas and concepts just make sense.

  • Don't let the emphasis of the importance of memorizing your times tables and addition facts misguide you into thinking the same process applies to solving any math problem.

10. Math requires intense work until it is finally solved. Instead...

  • Open yourself up to different options.

  • Understand how the math is carried out and strengthen your basic skills.

  • Take advantage of the tools right in front of you ie) calculators, statistical programs, mindset exercises that can dramatically change how you take on any math problem.

  • Rest is NOT the same as giving up.

  • Just because you can't get it now, doesn't mean you can't later.

  • Resting actually allows new insight to enter your mind, often revealing the solution.

11. Some people have a “math mind,” and others do not. Instead...

  • Forget the myth that mathematicians have a special brain.

  • It is this belief and others that you have convinced yourself you can't do math.

  • Focus on building your self-confidence.

  • It is one of the most important factors affecting your mathematical performance.

12. There is a magic formula for doing math. Instead...

  • Forget the magic formula myth, there is no magic formula.

  • Feel better to be able to see math for what it really is.

  • It is whatever you want it be.


Source: Mind Over Math, Kogelman & Warren, 2013

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