Latin's Math Stigma

Freddi Mitchell Part of being a teenager is having insecurities— insecurities about the way you look, feel, and act. Lots of teenagers and even adults share one common insecurity, and for a lot of them, it isn’t even true: it’s the belief that they are bad at math. It all began for me at the beginning of freshman year when I had reached my peak in thinking that I was bad at math. My grades did not demonstrate my struggle in years past, but they were still not the best in the class. I felt very pressured by my peers going into high school because of how competitive the academic environment is at Latin. After I was handed back my first Algebra II Honors quiz in my mailbox, I felt scared. I saw lots of circles around the problems, and there was no grade on the top of the page. I figured the teacher did not want show the grades until corrections were done, which I totally understand, but the amount of circles freaked me out. I asked my friends in the class how many circles they got. The most circles one of my friends had was two out of five,  minute in comparison  to my four out of five. When I hopped in the car later that day, I told my mom that I wasn’t in the right class and that I was bad at math. I had felt this for a long time before because I was never the best and was jealous of the kids that were always right. My mom said it was just one quiz and that I was fine. I now know that it was just one silly quiz, but on that day it seemed like it defined me as a student. When I first had the idea to write this article, I asked some of my fellow classmates at Latin to share their thoughts on why they think people believe that they are bad at math. One said that people think they are bad “because some of the concepts are really hard to grasp and there is only one right answer, so if you’re wrong it makes you feel stupid.” At Latin, math can be seen to many as their hardest class. Teachers at Latin push us hard,  putting challenging problems on quizzes and tests. I have had quizzes where some of the problems that were on it were on topics that I have not fully learned. Challenging students is not a bad thing, though. I believe students would both benefit if teachers taught these problems in class more, so on a quiz or tests students could succeed more often. Another person said, “People believe they are [bad at math] because it’s difficult and when something is challenging to them or they don’t understand it, they think they’re inherently bad.” This challenge can be fixed. Everyone at Latin needs to take a step back and think to themselves about what they think they are bad at. If they think hard enough about this thing they will realize that they are either not putting in a enough effort or they need help with their work. We have wonderful community of support in academics at Latin, so don’t be afraid to ask someone for help. I believe that one of the scariest things in life is to admit you need help or to admit that you do not know how to do something. These answers made me question what being bad at math means. Is it about the answers people get? Could it be about the fact people don’t push themselves hard enough to succeed? To different people being bad at math means different things. Some say that they are bad when they are getting Cs and Ds, while others are getting As and Bs and consider themselves bad. At Latin it is easier to think you are bad at something when you really aren’t; there are so many bright kids at Latin which makes getting grades that much more competitive. Math is only a stigma because we make it one. As students, we put pressure on ourselves to be the best. This only ends up making us worse. We say that we are bad at something, or we are not as good as somebody. In academics, the only person who matters is you. Just because someone else fully understands math does not mean you have to. As students at Latin we need to come together and address this stigma, so we can become the best math students we can be. In the end, being bad at math is not something that defines you as a person. Just because you believe that you are bad at something, doesn’t mean you are actually bad at at it. ]]>