All Kids Can Do Math, Right?

Sure – all kids can do math! As a society, we have decided what subjects should be taught in school – math, English, and science are the big three. Then there’s geography, history, phys-ed/health, or maybe a second language, and, finally, in last place, music, drama, and visual arts.

Each grade level has a set of common curriculum goals for each subject area. It is the teacher's job to ensure that every student in their classroom meets or exceeds these expectations. Click To Tweet

But what if we changed things?

What if we used mastery learning instead of expectations?


All kids can do math, right?

Let’s take a subject like math. All kids start with learning the decimal number system and progress from there. They learn the numbers from 1 to 10, then to 20, to 100 and so on.

Some kids will pick this up in days. For some, it will take weeks. And for others, they may never understand it.

What if we changed the subject from math to music?

All kids can sing, right?

All kids learn nursery rhymes when they’re young. Some have great pitch abilities and can carry a tune. But some are tone-deaf. They have no idea what they are singing, and they think they sound just like everyone else.

So, what happens?

If a kid can’t sing a note, they may try moving them to a musical instrument or keeping time on a drum. They may even switch them to art class. They don’t make them sing more!

In a subject like math, if a kid can’t count, they keep drilling it into them. They’re just lazy. Of course, every kid can count!

Talents vs Subjects!

Why do we treat these subjects differently? And why do we treat the kids differently who can’t do them?

My point is, we shouldn’t!

If we acknowledge that the kid will never be a musician, then why can’t we accept that they’ll never be able to understand math?

Brain Development?

Could it be that they aren’t ready to understand it yet?

There have been so many studies on brain development detailing how the brain matures in different ways and at different speeds.

Now, maybe that kid will never get math. But maybe – just maybe – they might when they’re older.

The problem is that someone has decided they have to master this now, at this age and in this grade.

But, can all kids do math?

The entire math curriculum for the first eight years of school has been designed around this foundational concept, and if they can’t learn how to count, then they are going to fail math for the next eight years.

But, maybe that same kid who can’t do math is a phenomenal runner. They win all the competitions and excel in sports.

Or maybe they can sing, and they have the voice of an angel.

You see, the point I'm making is that instead of focusing on what a kid CAN do well, we force them to feel bad about themselves because they don't do well in the subjects we have decided are important. Click To Tweet

We’re all good at something. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something that’s taught in a classroom.

I agree that we all need the basic skills to live, but we also need people who have different talents/abilities/skills/gifts to keep society moving.

So, why do we value academia above all else?

Not everyone learns well sitting in a classroom, so how do kids find out what they can do well? Click To Tweet

All Kids Have A Super Power!

Some kids never get to find out their superpowers.

They might stumble upon them by accident, or a teacher/coach/mentor helps them figure it out.

But if they don’t ‘fit’ into our current system, they will struggle their entire school career. And they will most likely end up hating school or hating the learning process.

We need to concentrate on their strengths.

Yes, they do need to work on their weaknesses, but maybe later, when they’ve built up enough confidence in themselves that struggling with something won’t be as damaging.

And, most of all, we need to change how we view abilities/skills vs academic success.

Everyone has a superpower.

Are we helping our kids find theirs?