## Math is Attitude

Math is more attitude than ability. This is not just a tagline. I believe in it. I read about this first in Outliers, an inspiring book by Malcolm Gladwell. This is what it says:

“Every four years, an international group of educators administers a comprehensive mathematics and science test to elementary and junior high students around the world. When students sit down to take the exam, they also have to fill out a questionnaire. It asks them all kinds of things, such as what their parents’ level of education is, and what their views about math are, and what their friends are like. It’s not a trivial exercise. It’s about 120 questions long. In fact, it is so tedious and demanding that many students leave as many as ten or twenty questions blank.

Now, here’s the interesting part. As it turns out, the average number of items answered on that questionnaire varies from country to country. It is possible, in fact, to rank all the participating countries according to how many items their students answer on the questionnaire. Now, what do you think happens if you compare the questionnaire rankings with the math rankings on the exam?

This was a paradigm shift for me and I got to re-experience the joy of knowing “math is attitude” when I recently read a phenomenal book 'Thinking, Fast and Slow' by Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winner. Mr. Kahneman says:

“People who score low on nonverbal tests of intelligence are prone to answer questions with the first idea that comes to mind and unwilling to invest the effort needed to check their intuitions. In particular, they are impulsive, impatient and keen to receive immediate gratification.”

“Every four years, an international group of educators administers a comprehensive mathematics and science test to elementary and junior high students around the world. When students sit down to take the exam, they also have to fill out a questionnaire. It asks them all kinds of things, such as what their parents’ level of education is, and what their views about math are, and what their friends are like. It’s not a trivial exercise. It’s about 120 questions long. In fact, it is so tedious and demanding that many students leave as many as ten or twenty questions blank.

Now, here’s the interesting part. As it turns out, the average number of items answered on that questionnaire varies from country to country. It is possible, in fact, to rank all the participating countries according to how many items their students answer on the questionnaire. Now, what do you think happens if you compare the questionnaire rankings with the math rankings on the exam?

**In other words, countries whose students are willing to concentrate and sit still long enough and focus on answering every single question in an endless questionnaire are the same countries whose students do the best job of solving math problems.”***They are exactly the same.*This was a paradigm shift for me and I got to re-experience the joy of knowing “math is attitude” when I recently read a phenomenal book 'Thinking, Fast and Slow' by Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winner. Mr. Kahneman says:

“People who score low on nonverbal tests of intelligence are prone to answer questions with the first idea that comes to mind and unwilling to invest the effort needed to check their intuitions. In particular, they are impulsive, impatient and keen to receive immediate gratification.”