Daniel Koretz, professor of Education at Harvard, talks about how parents wrongfully assume some kids are good at math and others are not.
Daniel Koretz: It’s not an accident that children from certain cultures, for instance, perform very well. There’s a tremendous interest in the performance of developed East Asian countries, which in mathematics is consistently very high, much higher than performance here. It’s also true that children from those cultures in this country, going to our educational system, outperform Whites as well, on average. What we don’t have, I think, is we don’t have a consistent press by parents on students to perform well on ways that matter. So, for example, there’s a very commonly discussed problem with the attitude toward mathematics in this country. In this country, it’s considered perfectly acceptable to be incompetent in mathematics. And, in fact, some people are rather proud of being incompetent in mathematics. It’s not considered acceptable to be incompetent in Mathematics in East Asian countries that score very well on standardized tests. And, in fact, what anthropologist have said is that in those cultures, the assumption is that much of the variation on how well you do, how well a student does in mathematics is a function of effort. Many parents in United States assume that it’s just some kind of aptitude, some kids have it and some kids don’t. Result is our kids really don’t do very well in mathematics by international standards. And I think part of the problem is those parental attitudes.