Miles and I have a new column out in Quartz, on how the fallacy of genetic determinism is killing Americans' math skills. Some excerpts:
“I’m just not a math person.”
We hear it all the time. And we’ve had enough. Because we believe that the idea of “math people” is the most self-destructive idea in America today. The truth is, you probably are a math person, and by thinking otherwise, you are possibly hamstringing your own career. Worse, you may be helping to perpetuate a pernicious myth that is harming underprivileged children—the myth of inborn genetic math ability.
Is math ability genetic? Sure, to some degree...[But for] high school math, inborn talent is just much less important than hard work, preparation, and self-confidence...
Too many Americans go through life terrified of equations and mathematical symbols. We think what many of them are afraid of is “proving” themselves to be genetically inferior by failing to instantly comprehend the equations (when, of course, in reality, even a math professor would have to read closely). So they recoil from anything that looks like math, protesting: “I’m not a math person.”...We believe that this has to stop. Our view is shared by economist and writer Allison Schrager, who has written two wonderful columns in Quartz (here and here), that echo many of our views...
We see our country moving away from a culture of hard work toward a culture of belief in genetic determinism. In the debate between “nature vs. nurture,” a critical third element—personal perseverance and effort—seems to have been sidelined. We want to bring it back, and we think that math is the best place to start.
Read the whole thing here!