Twins – One ‘Can’t do Maths’ but One ‘Can’.
I really enjoyed the talk by Mathew Syed this week. He starts off by expressing that within our western world we have developed a culture where we view high performance as governed by natural talent. It leads me to question whether our School system has a part to play in this.
Syed mentions about the stigma around mathematics, ‘I don’t have a brain for numbers.’ I can’t count the amount of times I have heard my Twin sister say that she can’t do Maths (she is currently re-sitting her GCSE)! This leads me nicely to the statement that talent is due to genetics, Syed sees it as a small part of the jigsaw puzzle, I see it as a tiny.
Relating this back to my twin, Beth, genetically we are very similar, our environment has been almost identical, although differed slightly through teachers. She would state I am naturally good at Maths and that she simply ‘can’t do it!’ A large part of me believes that the way we were first graded in Secondary school has impacted on this.
In Secondary school, there were 3 ability levels. In Year 7 I went into Maths as a set 1 whereas Beth, was graded as a set 3 (this was probably the outcome of 1 test!) Personally, I feel within Mathematics, along with other subjects, setting in order of ability can be very damaging, especially setting at such a young age. (At St Leonards and Hastings Academy how can they justify 5 sets?!)
‘If you put your mind to it you can achieve anything’ but only if the environment allows you to do this. If you are told at a young age you are of low level for a subject, students may feel it is impossible to ever become a high achiever and simply give up.
Syed expressed, that with the right nurturing the students can adapt and if you stick at something for a long period of time the brain changes. I see this as true but the problem being that within our schooling system we a restricted to the time spent on certain subjects, so it is up to the individual to be motivated and believe they can achieve.
If students are able to progress through repeated learning of a subject this should be a reasonable way to remember and recall information. Daniel Willingham’s article, along with being a great read, has lead me to think about the importance of knowing revision techniques. Students should be actively working on small tasks and be encouraged to re-visit different Math topics. Within schools could this be provided in after school workshops for all abilities to come together and revise past areas of the syllabus.