Math and Perfectionism

Math. It brings anxiety, tears, and frustration to a large swath of this country. I’m no stranger to these emotions – we’ve experienced them in our homeschool, also. One thing I see fairly consistently amongst struggling math students is a vicious case of perfectionism. An expectation by the student is that the math must be done without error or all is lost. Conclusion: “I’m terrible at math.”

If you’ve never seen the movie “Hidden Figures”, I highly recommend watching it. When you do, please note that in the early years of the space program, they hired teams of mathematicians, some just to check each other’s math. Every single bit of math was checked and rechecked many times. Think about this – these were the brightest minds of their time, but we had teams of people checking and rechecking their math. Why? Because even the best and brightest minds make mistakes. So, why do we, as students learning math, hold ourselves to a higher standard than the best and brightest mathematical minds in the world who put a man on the moon? If they can make mistakes, maybe it’s okay for a student who is still learning to make mistakes, also. Maybe we’ve set the bar for no errors on our daily math, just a smidgen too high? 😉 Students: Grant yourselves some grace – mistakes are to be expected. Perfection is the exception, not the rule!

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