Remember when I said there is no math gene? I meant it. But to underscore it, I’m going to share my son’s artwork.
What does art have to do with math genes? Take a look at the photo. These are some of the art pieces that are hanging on my wall created by my oldest son. (My youngest son has an art wall, as well.) I’ll have to admit, these pieces are pretty good. The longboard piece (Gustave Caillebotte’s Paris Street Rainy Day) was made in his second year of art in high school. That’s the one I want to discuss.
My son is not an artist. Would you believe me if I told you that if I asked him to draw me a picture of a person, I’d get something that resembled a stick figure. No kidding. And even then, it might take some imagination to figure it out.
So how does my stick-figure-drawing son paint such a stunning piece on his longboard? Hours and hours of work studying perspective, lighting, shadows, and paying carefull attention to detail. And a few minor meltdowns.
But that brings me to my point. Nathan spent three years in (high school) art class as a struggling artist. We don’t normally think of the actual work to be the struggling part. But it was for Nathan. He spent more hours on his art homework than he did on his calculus or history homework. Why? Precisely because he’s not an artist. It doesn’t come naturally to him. And that means a lot more effort is required to produce acceptable work.
It’s no different in math. It takes hard work. Even for those who “get” math, it’s hard work. Take, for example, two high school juniors…both girls. I’ve known them since the early elementary years and both are tops in their Calculus math class. I know this because my youngest son is in that class. He describes how hard they work, how many questions they ask in class, and how well they do on their tests. They put the time in.
So it’s not about having a math (or an art) gene. It’s about being persistent. It’s taking a break and coming back to it later. It’s believing that with effort it can be done.
Nathan has absolutely no career aspirations that involve art. And maybe most kids don’t have any career aspirations that involve higher math. But the math that is required of our kids…it’s not beyond their reach as long as they’re willing to put in the work. And if they do, they’ll find that it’s the struggle that makes the accomplishment so much sweeter.
By the way, a few weeks into his college life, Nathan texted me that he wanted to put wheels and trucks (whatever those are) on the board so that he could actually use it. Apparently his roommate has his own long board and it’s a lot of fun. Um, I don’t think so. The board and all the hard work are staying right where they are, on my wall. I thought kids were supposed to get their brains back after high school…