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Overcoming the False Belief of Being "Bad at Math"

For as long as we have been working with high school and college students, we have encountered numerous students who harbored the belief that they were inherently "bad at math." This misconception often becomes a barrier to their success in the subject, hindering their academic progress and creating unnecessary stress. It is our firm belief, backed by years of experience, that this mindset is a mere illusion, and with the right guidance and mindset shift, anyone can excel in mathematics.

Breaking the Stereotype:

One of the prevalent issues in math education is the perpetuation of the stereotype that some people are naturally gifted in mathematics while others are destined to struggle. This false belief can lead students to adopt a fixed mindset, believing that their abilities are predetermined and unchangeable.

As educators and advocates for mathematical success, it is our responsibility to challenge and dispel this myth.

Understanding the Growth Mindset:

The key to overcoming the false belief of being "bad at math" lies in adopting a growth mindset. Coined by psychologist Carol S. Dweck, a growth mindset is the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed through dedication, hard work, and perseverance. Embracing this mindset empowers students to see challenges as opportunities for growth rather than obstacles.

Encouraging Effort and Persistence:

Mathematics is not a talent reserved for a select few; rather, it is a skill that can be honed through consistent effort and practice. It is essential to remember that mistakes are a natural part of the learning process and should be embraced, as they provide valuable insights and opportunities for improvement. By encouraging persistence and a positive attitude toward challenges, students, including your child, can gradually build their mathematical proficiency.

Here is a short list that will assist students in overcoming the false belief of being "bad at math:"

  1. Identify and Challenge Negative Beliefs: first, you need to have an honest discussion about your child's beliefs and challenge any negative perceptions they may hold about their mathematical abilities.

  2. Set Realistic Goals: It is important to focus on realistic goals, preferably one at a time, e.g. mastering fractions, division & multiplication, geometry, linear functions etc. That way your child doesn't get overwhelmed. Remember to celebrate small victories to build confidence and keep the momentum.

  3. Provide Constructive Feedback: improving anything in life requires constant feedback. That's why working with a tutor, who can point out specific mistakes and share strategies for problem solving, can be so valuable. Learning math is a journey and at The Better Math we believe in giving praise for every effort, while holding students accountable.

  4. Promote Active Learning: just reading a textbook over and over doesn't help. Students need to engage with mathematical concepts through problem-solving, discussions, and real-world applications. That's why so many students have found our group tutoring sessions so valuable. Seeing multiple ways of solving a problem and engaging in a discussion with other students helps picking up concepts so much faster.


It is crucial to dispel the false belief that some individuals are inherently "bad at math." With a growth mindset, dedication, and the right support, every student has the potential to excel in mathematics. As educators and advocates, we play a pivotal role in fostering a positive learning environment that encourages students to embrace challenges, persist through difficulties, and ultimately unlock their full mathematical potential. Through effective tutoring and a commitment to changing mindsets, we have been empowering students all over the country to rewrite their math narratives and embark on a journey of academic success.

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