Talent or Effort
Angela describes her first year of teaching Math to twelve and thirteen year olds and how some were quick to catch on to the math concepts she was teaching. After teaching the procedure for one problem, they would immediately work out the next one on their own. However, after the first grading period she was surprised that some of these talented students were not doing as well as she had expected them to. "In contrast, several of the students who initially struggled were faring better than I'd expected. These 'overachievers' would reliably come to class every day with everything they needed Instead of playing around and looking out the window, they took notes and asked questions. When they didn't get something the first time around, they tried again and again, sometimes coming for extra help during their lunch period or during afternoon electives. Their hard work showed in their grades....Talent for math was different from excelling in math class."
Most people think that math is a subject you are simply good at or you are not. Those who are more talented are expected to excel. But isn't effort important?
The next year, Angela taught at a high school. David was a freshman in her algebra class. The class she taught was the "regular" algebra class for students that hadn't scored high enough on a math placement test to be in the accelerated class. David was a quiet kid that sat in the back and rarely volunteered any answers. As the year progressed, he handed in assignments, quizzes and tests that were perfectly completed. David was clearly a student that needed to be in the accelerated track that led to the Advanced Placement Calculus class by senior year. David was switched over to the accelerated track.
David described his experience after he was moved to the advanced class, "I was a little behind. And the next year, math--it was geometry--continued to be hard." When he didn't get A's he said he felt bad but didn't dwell on it. "I knew it was done," he said. "I knew I had to focus on what to do next. So I went to my teacher and asked for help. I basically tried to figure out, you know, what I did wrong. What I needed to do differently." David went on to take the AP exam his senior year and earned a 5 out of 5. In college he earned dual degrees in engineering and economics, and then later a PhD in mechanical engineering. He now works as an engineer in the Aerospace Corporation. "Quite literally, the boy who was deemed 'not ready' for harder, faster math classes is now a 'rocket scientist'." (Duckworth, 2016, p. 16-20)
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