Math Myths Debunked: Math is Just a Set of Rules to Memorize



I’ve heard this myth in various forms from various people all my life. I’m sure you have too! And I’m sure in some classrooms {unfortunately} there is truth to it. But it doesn’t have to be this way! What is this math myth?

“Math is just a boring set of rules and formulas to memorize.”

Let me let you in on a little secret: Math is NOT just rules and formulas! And Math should not be learned (and I would argue cannot be learned in a meaningful way) by memorizing!

Math is beautiful! Math is a unique language that models all the things in the world around us. It shows us how things work. It solves problems. It is logical and precise. It displays the beauty of God’s creation through order and not chaos.

The beauty of mathematics shines in one of the most moving scenes I have ever seen on TV in an episode of Bones (Season 9, episode 11: “The Spark in the Park”). Brennen goes to visit a grieving father who is a genius professor of physics. As he works through his grief, he takes all the beautiful moments of his daughter’s life and writes the motions out using mathematical models. Brennen is then able to “read” the equations on the board and they discuss significant moments in her life. (Check out this article to read more about it.)

You can also see beauty of mathematics in works of art, nature, even the gorgeous snowflakes in the movie Frozen! That’s math!

source: Peter Molnar via Flickr

But math is not just beautiful; it is infinitely useful. And if you can learn to work at problems and think through them logically using what you know, you will not only learn a new math skill but you will be a little better at problem solving than you were before. And that is a skill that you will use every day of your life!

This was always one of the reasons that I loved math. Even though I also love History and love reading and learning about the past, art, other cultures, etc. the reality is, given a test, I can only do as well as the information I have memorized. If I am posed with a question about the history of North Korea, I either know it or I don’t! There is no problem solving or working things out. No trial and error. If I don’t know the answer, I get it wrong.

But given a math problem, I can use all my problem solving tricks, write out everything I know, make charts and lists, try different ideas and see if it works, etc. until I figure it out!

There is always hope in math class! So if you are a teacher, I hope you find a way to encourage your students with this truth today, and if you are a struggling student, take heart! There’s always more than one way to solve a math problem, you just have to persevere long enough to figure it out!

Happy Learning!

~Math Geek Mama

Similar Posts