It's amazing how many math myths are out there these days. Believing these myths can lead students (not to mention adults) to believe that math is "too hard," "not for them," or just plain unattainable. That's nonsense!
In most cases, speed has nothing to do with how smart you are. Why is that? Because it largely depends on how familiar you are with a topic. For example, a bike mechanic can look at a bike for about 8 seconds and tell you details about the bike that you probably didn’t even notice (e.g., the front tire is on backwards). Is that person smart? Sure! Suppose, instead, you show the same bike mechanic a car. Will s/he be able to recall the same amount of detail as for the bike? No!
It’s easy to confuse speed with understanding. Speed is associated with the memorization of facts. Understanding, on the other hand, is a methodical, time-consuming process. Understanding is the result of asking lots of questions and seeing connections between different ideas. Many mathematicians who won the Fields Medal (i.e., the Nobel prize for mathematics) describe themselves as extremely slow thinkers. That’s because mathematical thinking requires understanding over memorization. #mathmythbusted
As you probably know, the brain is divided into two hemispheres: the left and the right. Some categorize people by their preferred or dominant mode of thinking. “Right-brain” thinkers are considered to be more intuitive, creative, and imaginative. “Left-brain” thinkers are more logical, verbal, and mathematical.
But another way to think about the brain is from the back to the front, where information goes from highly concrete to abstract. So, why don’t we claim that some people are “back of the brain” thinkers who are highly concrete; whereas, others are “frontal thinkers” who are more abstract?
The brain is a highly interconnected organ. Each lobe hands off information to be processed by other lobes, and they are constantly talking to each other. So it’s time to dispense with the distinction between right- and left-brain thinkers. We are all whole-brain thinkers! #mathmythbusted
Stay tuned for more myth-busting, and the next time you hear a Math Myth like this from a student, parent, or even a friend, make sure you bust it!
Dr. Bob joined Carnegie Learning in 2009 as a Cognitive Scientist. He received his PhD in Cognitive Psychology in 2005 from the University of Pittsburgh under the direction of Dr. Michelene T.H. Chi, and he received additional training at the Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center (PSLC) as a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Kurt VanLehn and Dr. Timothy J. Nokes-Malach. In his spare time, Dr. Bob publishes a blog entitled Dr. Bob's Cog Blog, and is the author of the book Cognitive Science for Educators: Practical suggestions for an evidence-based classroom. The unifying theme that runs throughout all of these activities is a drive toward helping every student become an expert in a domain of her or his choice. When he isn’t thinking about cognitive science, which is rare, Dr. Bob enjoys long-distance running, mountain biking, and traveling with his wife.Explore more related to this author
Amy Jones Lewis brings her classroom expertise and passion for high-quality math instruction together as Carnegie Learning’s Senior Director of Content Design. In this role, she oversees the content development of Carnegie Learning’s instructional resources to meet the needs of students and teachers. Prior to this, she was the math specialist for Intermediate Unit 1, receiving more than $2M in grant funds to provide intensive professional development to K-8 teachers in southwestern PA. As a national consultant, Amy has contributed to projects at WestEd, Discovery Education, and other local organizations. She is the former Director of Educational Services at Carnegie Learning, where she worked with teachers and coaches across the country to successfully implement the Carnegie Learning blended math solutions. She began her career teaching high school mathematics in Malawi, Africa, and Baltimore City, MD, and has a Masters of Arts in Teaching from Johns Hopkins University.Explore more related to this author