I want to share this article a former client forwarded me from the New York Times because they know this is exactly what I’ve been preaching for 15 years. Not the boy/girl thing—that particular perspective I’d never thought about—but the practice piece is very well articulated. Read the entire article here to hear someone besides me say it.
Here are some highlights. These are direct quotes from the article. Bolding is mine.
“Unfortunately, thinking you’re not very good at something can be a quick path to disliking and avoiding it, even if you do have natural ability. You can begin to avoid practicing it, because to your mind, that practice is more painful than learning what comes more easily. Not practicing, in turn, transforms what started out as a mere aversion into a genuine lack of competence. Unfortunately, the way math is generally taught in the United States — which often downplays practice in favor of emphasizing conceptual understanding — can make this vicious circle even worse for girls.
“It’s important to realize that math is, to some extent, like playing a musical instrument. But the instrument you play is your own internal neural apparatus.
“When we learn to play an instrument — say, the guitar — it’s obvious that simply *understanding* how a chord is constructed isn’t the equivalent of being able to *play* the chord. Guitar teachers know intuitively that the path to success and creativity at the guitar is to practice until the foundational patterns are deeply ingrained. The word “rote” has a bad rap in modern-day learning. But the reality is that rote practice, by which I mean routine practice that keeps the focus on what comes harder for you, plays an important role. The foundational patterns must be ingrained before you can begin to be creative.
“Math is like that, too. As the researcher K. Anders Ericsson has shown, becoming an expert at anything requires the development of neural patterns that are acquired through much practice and repetition. Understanding is part of acquiring expertise, but it certainly isn’t all. But today’s “understanding-centered” approach to learning math, combined with efforts to make the subject more “fun” by avoiding drill and practice, shortchanges children of the essential process of instilling the neural patterns they need to be successful. And it may be girls that suffer most.”
ALL SO TRUE. Could not have said it any better. I will add that if the repetition is on-level (in your sweet spot!), then it’s not that grueling abhorrent chore that the rote-haters would have you believe.
So don’t lament if you read this article and thought ‘oh no— the only way out of my math struggles is drilling something that I hate! Not so!! The human brain actually ENJOYS repetition when it’s appropriately prescribed and done the right way. Think children learning something and how they want to do it over and over again. Think video games or ski ball or tossing a basketball in a hoop. Think any game where you’re compelled to play again and again because it’s challenging yet do-able.
Furthermore, MFK-style repetition never means endless pages of the same type of problem. Rather, it means repeated exposure over time. Y’all!! It is possible for math skills to fall in this happy-learning place! Don’t believe me? Come experience it. Contact me to schedule a free phone consultation. I can help you determine if this method makes sense as a path for you and I have ways of trying it on for size so you can experience sweet spot learning for yourself.