One day one of my sons said to me, “I am just never going to understand math.”
He was very discouraged. He had spent a long time doing his math assignment, but only got 12 out of 25 problems right.
He said, “I don’t understand math. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”
I said to him, “What are you going to do?”
Huh? That was not what he had expected. I think he had expected me to try to talk him into doing math, or try to convince him that he would be able to understand math somehow. He did not know how to respond to my question.
What had just happened?
My son had responded to a situation in his life (problem) with a certain paradigm. We talk a lot about paradigms in our house, because I think they are so important to understand.
Paradigms are like a pair of glasses. If I put on a
pair of dark glasses, I am going to see
things differently than if I put on a pair of
“regular” glasses. If I put on my husband’s
glasses, I am not going to be able to see well
at all. Things will be distorted. If I choose
not to wear glasses, then I will not be able
to see things that are far away. If I use a
pair of reading glasses, then I could see to
read, but still would not be able to see far away.
The choice of the glasses I put on matters a lot to what I can see.
According to my driver’s license, I have to wear glasses in order to drive. My driver’s license does not state this explicitly, but I am pretty sure if I decided to wear someone else’s glasses and not my own, and drive…………….and then caused an accident…………...I would be at fault.
So my son had received his corrected math assignment back, and looked at it with what I call “can’t” glasses. As a result, he decided that he didn’t like math, that he was never going to understand it, and that he couldn’t make any sense of math. Although he didn’t state this, he expected this to be a permanent condition. It wouldn’t change. In two years he still would not understand math. Five years from that, it still would be the same.
So I asked the question, “What are you going to do?” I wanted him to realize that he was going to have to do something about the situation. He could choose to just simply never be good at math, or he could choose to believe that he could do something about it.
The thing is, our questions matter. My son received his grade, and made conclusions. He didn’t ask questions at all.
Why didn’t he ask questions like these?
Why did I get those problems wrong?
Why DID I get some right?
Why are some math problems easier than others for me?
What can I do to be able to learn more effectively?
Are there any things that I missed when i studied this math lesson?
How can I improve my math score?
When we look around at a situation, and think about possible questions to ask, we are expanding our ability to see. Maybe we put on several different sets of glasses (metaphorically speaking), so that we can gain perspective on the issue.
Our questions matter. When we’re really discouraged, many times we find that we aren’t even asking questions. We’re just assuming things to be true. When we look around, choose our perspective, and ask all kinds of questions, we can be back in control, and choose our responses to life’s situations. That brings peace.