I recently had a conversation with a young man about math. He said “I used to be good at math.” Of course, I asked what happened. He told me how he earned good grades in math through the 5^{th} grade. When he went to middle school, he had a terrible experience with his math teacher. On this particular day, he earned a low grade on a test. The teacher spoke to him in a very demeaning tone. He does not remember what she said to him, but he remembers that the way she said it made him feel poorly about himself. This one day affected his future math grades and attitude towards math.

This story is not unique. It happens all the time. In fact, most students who struggle with math had a negative experience centered around math (a punishment for not answering a question correctly, embarrassing remarks made by a teacher (or parent) about their performance, or even being ridiculed while working out a math problem on the chalk board). In either case, the incident impacts the student’s feelings about math. It has a lasting psychological effect on the student, which ultimately impacts their performance in math courses.

The young man I discussed earlier had a rekindled love of math when he went to college. He did well for a while. Unfortunately, he had another bad experience centered around math. He said he just gave up and said “I guess it’s not meant for me to get math.”

I am very saddened by this story, and even more saddened that teachers and educators continue to discourage students’ love of math. * It only takes one sideways glance, snarl, or comment to turn a student away from math (or any subject for that matter).*

As teachers, educators, mentors, parents, etc. let us encourage the love of math that our students exhibit. Even if they are an average student, encourage their effort and work. This will make them want to work harder and perform better.

**Please make every effort to have a lasting, positive effect on the student who (unknowingly) relies on you for encouragement and approval! **

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I am a Co-founder of and Program Coordinator for Math Corps Philadelphia, a combined academic enrichment and mentoring program. I am the author of "Teacher Training Manual: Designed for Secondary Mathematics Teachers of African American Urban Students." I hold a Master of Education degree in Secondary Mathematics and have several years of experience teaching secondary and post-secondary mathematics.

February 8, 2013 at 11:35 pm

Great post! It just brought to mind an article I just read last week: http://mathyawp.blogspot.com/2013/01/the-lesson-of-grace-in-teaching.html

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February 9, 2013 at 8:52 am

I just read the article. It is very touching and so real! I have always treated my students this way, but never labeled it. Many of them return and thank me for something I wasn’t aware I did.

One of the most inspiring comments in the article is when he wrote “So did I quit? No. I just changed advisors.” That’s the best attitude towards challenge and opposition!

Thank you Luis! Now I can start my day!

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February 9, 2013 at 12:40 am

Hi Nneka,

I have nominated you for the Inspirational Bloggers’ Award, because I admire your posts (an educator here!)

If you have already been tagged in this, that’s fine- if not, come and visit me and you’ll see that I have put a link to your blog, on my post. You will also see what to do next.

http://hmcwriter.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/the-very-inspirational-blogger-award/

HMC

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February 9, 2013 at 8:27 am

Thank you Haley!! This is such an honor. I will begin working on my list today!

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February 11, 2013 at 6:29 pm

I had my math attack in 5th grade

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February 12, 2013 at 6:35 am

You have to tell me story. I had no idea!

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