Maths is in the Genes…

Myth busting is something I love to do with my students, that moment where they realise that they are not constrained by a myth is great…a true ah-ha moment. But my time is limited and I can’t have everyone as my students, so here is the start of my myth busting series. Why am I sharing them? Well they help to reduce and relieve anxiety surrounding maths and numbers.

So here it is, myth number 1.

‘My parents said they were no good at maths, that’s why I can’t do it…it’s their fault!’

As a teacher I hear this from students all the time, they firmly believe that the mathematical talents of their parents are trapped inside them and will dictate everything that ever happens to them in a maths lesson. This may sound a tad dramatic, but these students are looking for a reason. A reason why they are different from their peers. I have also lost count of the amount of times I have had parents explain to me that their child struggles with maths because they did at school. 

Is there any truth in it?

There is a large body of research being conducted around this idea, with Michael Skeide leading on the publication of the most recently concluded study. This study found that there is some genetic link to maths ability. There is the ROBO1 gene, this gene is found in the area of the brain which is involved in number representation. There is some evidence to suggest that it can be used to predict early maths scores, however this reliability dwindles as a child gets older. It is said that 20% of maths ability is focused on this gene. 

In short, 20% of a child’s abilities in maths are linked to their genes, however that leaves a whopping 80% of ability all down to their experiences, understanding and construction of concepts. 

What does this mean?

This means that 80% of our maths ability stems from our experiences with maths and most importantly the way in which maths is perceived and discussed around us. Your child’s interaction with numbers and experience of maths lessons will impact their mathematical ability. I am confident that everyone is a mathematician, some are slow; some are fast paced; some need a different method; some need to use resources to physically see the mathematical process but all will get there in the end.

Maths is not always about the right answer, more often than not more marks are given in exams for showing the journey of getting there. Convincing our children that there is a method out there that can work for them is the greatest battle of all. Once that barrier is broken down, the rest will come along naturally. I see children with deep rooted anxiety around maths everyday, with some nurturing and a slow, steady pace, they soon begin to change their opinions. Math’s can be a creative, dynamic and experience based subject, we just have to consider the methods we are using to get there.

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