Effort vs Innate Ability

Here’s another interesting piece related to the balance of scientific understanding about academic skills being innate vs learnable, practice-able and acquirable – in this case in relation to Maths.

ASCD Blog post – Persida Himmele – Being Good at Maths

It poses a serious challenge to anyone who has ever declared “I’m no good at maths”, especially if they said it in the presence of a child. The fact is that Maths, entails a series of logical, sequential steps. Do each step in the right order, with enough care and attention to accuracy then you get the right answer. Practice hones the skills of applying the right skill at the right moment, acquiring accuracy and over time being able to carry out the processes at speed. In many ways

I would make an analogy with driving a car. Ironically, when most people get behind the wheel of a car they have a high level of motivation to acquire the skills, to believe that all the skills are within their scope and you rarely hear someone declare “I’m bad at driving”.In fact, more’s the shame, too often there are people who should be acknowledging that their driving requires more applied practice of the requisite skills, but instead they over estimate their skill levels (confession = men are the worst culprits at this!!)

I don’t believe I have any maths gene. I recall that in school I achieved a bit above average in Maths, without excelling, largely because I shared this mythical belief in innate maths ability – in other words, where I was going to score and achieve was pre-ordained. I believe this became self-fulfilling with me motivated to put in just about the level of focus and practice that ensured that my performance was always around the level that I expected.

To me this is another of those areas in which I believe greater focus on the ‘how’ of learning, discussed overtly with students can be enormously worthwhile. It is only in this way – when we actually make sure we spend time on ‘process’ that we can bring to the surface faulty, limiting beliefs that children are carrying, confront them and help them to be more informed so that they can replace them with far more positive, healthy and enriching beliefs about their abilities.

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One Response

  1. Good one. Practice and Process can help tune ‘brain’ to ‘acquire’ the skill.

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