Are you a math person?

"Are you a math person?" and "Are you smart in math?" are worthless questions. They make us believe that our current math ability determines something about what we can become.

Here are some actually useful questions regarding some math we are trying to learn...
    "Am I currently good at this math?"
    "How badly do I want to do well in this math?"
    "Can I become better at this math?"
    "How do I become better at this math?"

If you believe yourself to not be a math person, you are either currently not good at the math you are trying or you do not want to be good at the math. It is fine to be either of these! Math is fascinating, but so are other things, so maybe math is not your passion. Or maybe the school system does not reward your particular unique strengths in math or has given you a poor education. Please know that you can become good at math. Follow your curiosity! If you want to learn more, maybe start your journey here.

Everyone can become better at math if they simply keep trying. I personally know someone who now has a PhD in physics who started college taking the most basic math classes for a few years. I also know of a world expert in engineering research who spent much of the beginning of his life doing manual labor. I know college math instructors who started college knowing very little math. These individuals were not successful because they are "math people". Nor should their stories be surprising. Instead, they kept trying.

Are some rare people math geniuses? Yes. Do other people have cognitive challenges that make math more of a challenge? Yes. Do we tend to follow the careers that we personally have a knack for? Yes. Who cares! We are all smart at everything in that we can all learn and succeed. Besides this single statement about us all being smart, I try not to use the word smart. It makes people who are already good at something forget that they still have to try, and it makes people who are not yet good unmotivated. Why can't we all just grow in our own ways at our own times? Why can't we keep trying to be great at math, especially if it is something that we enjoy?

Another reason to not use the word smart or the phrase math person is that I know a lot of mathematicians and physicists who have grown to understand math very well, and I have never heard any of them say that they are smart at math (perhaps because everyone already knows that they are good). Whenever I hear someone say that they are smart at math, I question if I should think of them as overconfident therefore lacking the motivation to think hard enough to truly understand math. Let's not think of ourselves as smart at math, and, more importantly, let's not let someone else's false confidence discourage us and pull us down as well. We can all do math without needing to say that we're smart or not smart at it. By the way, if we overcome overconfidence and lack of confidence to become an expert in something, we will have to overcome new obstacles, but that's another topic...


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