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“My Mum was Never Good at Maths”

‘My mum was never good at maths’ or ‘I’m not good at maths’ are statements people seem content to say but would it be the same with reading?

SJ White is attempting to change her attitude as well as others’.

Not only is this what a student said to me recently, it is also true for me, sorry mum! In my student’s example, we fell into a place where it was implied that maths skills may have been inherited rather than learned. When my student said this to me, there were nods and errs in agreement from others. What if the student had said “My mum can’t read” how would peers have responded to that? We can only speculate. There was, however, a general consensus about maths being inherited skills rather than a taught or learned one.

However, you rank or categorise subjects, and English and maths are often significant ones. In further education, it is compulsory to study maths and English until the age of 18 or until you achieve a grade 4, whichever happens first. Look at the local job adverts listed in your area near you now, English and maths qualifications are required in many cases.

I am aware that both English and maths are challenging subjects, for a lot of us. But perhaps we find a lot of subjects challenging, everyone is different and what I find easy you may find difficult and so on. Although I am a maths teacher, by specialism, I myself, am not ‘good’ at maths. 

Like I said; “my mum was never good at maths.”

Does that get me off the hook? No, of course, it doesn’t! My maths skills are something that I have to work at, like my English skills, my digital skills, and so many other skills. I acquired new knowledge during my schooling and learned how to improve, and this continues now in education over my lifetime. I am always learning.

When I say that I am not ‘good’ at maths, who do I measure my maths skills against? Mainly colleagues, who are often more gifted than me. But this is OK, I also work with colleagues who are better bakers, writers, artists than me. I still practice these skills; I still learn how to improve. 

This narrative of maths being a subject we allow or accept that we are not good at starts with us. Have we used those words? Did we create this tale? Can we change the narrative? I am blogging here as a statement of intent that I too will stop saying that I am not good at maths. (And that my mum was never good at it eother) We can all learn and improve, that’s education.

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The author

Sammy White

Sammy is an FE maths lecturer now consulting with colleges across the country on developing their use of education technology and advising on their strategies for teaching and learning. Sammy has taught across secondary, vocational further education, adult further education as well as secondary alternative provisions. Sammy was the first female Google for Education Certified Coach in Europe. She is also a Google innovator and trainer. Sammy has recently been delivering her own workshops on using GIFs to model and bridge the digital divide to UK colleges and schools. You can connect with Sammy and read more of her work at bio.link/Whatthetrig

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