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The MATH behind the NARRATIVE

My 9-year-old always finds math a bit harder to get by. She needs multiple explanations of a mathematical concept before she is able to work independently and solve the sums. Partly my teaching style limitations and partly her attention and aptitude, had us at our wits end. Over the last 2 years, her teacher and I  developed a narrative - “Not good at math“          

  “Does not enjoy math”. 


Lo, behold! My daughter created the same narrative for herself- “ I am not good at math” and then the next one “ I hate math”. I also found her telling me one day at in class eleven she will be able to give up math when she chooses her subjects. Her interest in math continued to spiral down. She would ignore it, preferring to invest energy on subjects she liked and excelled at. 


One day, a teacher walked into our lives. A regular school teacher who paid attention to how my daughter did her math, how she read the problems and how she went about the solution. She called me with the following observations:


  1. She has a high accuracy rate in pure mathematics. You give her a sum, give her time and she will get back with high accuracy 

  2. Accuracy drops with time pressure 

  3. She struggles with word problems because she get entangled with the words and does not read them properly.


What I considered “math” as a whole, she broke down into 4 elements – Concept, Accuracy, Speed, and Complexity. Her interpretation was this –

  1. Mid on concept 

  2. High on accuracy 

  3. Low on speed 

  4. Mid on complexity 


She encouraged my daughter to find questions in the worksheets that she felt comfortable attempting. She allowed her extra 10 minutes on each sheet.  


My daughters overall score on math consistently increased. From a 40%ile she began averaging at 60-65%ile 


Game changer is this. Her (and my) narrative has changed to:

  • “I don’t hate math, I find it harder “ 

  • “ I am NOT BAD at math”

  • “I do not attempt all sums, the ones I do, I get right”- ( work on attempting more)


A change in perspectivea master stroke of an expert (the teacher), the close observation and patience to understand the current patterns – led to some very effective outcomes. The narrative has changed her life. She is confident and is demonstrating a growth mindset- focusing on getting better.


Assessments of behavior follow the same rules  – it is LESS about overall ratings and ranking and more about helping people understand what within a parameter, they excel it and struggle with


This helps to create targeted developmental strategies and develop concrete goals of behavioural modification.


Behavioural assessment, like math, needs an expert who can observe, de-code, connect the pattern into meaningful interpretations. Like all things in life- expertise comes at a price (& in hidden in the most unassuming corners)

What is your learning from this story? 




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