This statement was all but screamed at us by our youngest granddaughter in response to a request to count how many forks were needed on the dinner table.
What could we say or do in response to this declaration? More importantly how did this intelligent 7 year old form this opinion about herself? How can and entire lifetime of using math daily be defined in grade 2?
Three things will have occurred in order for Ruth to know she "can't do math":
1. An adult who Ruth believes understands her ability in math has formed the opinion that Ruth "can't do math" - has diagnosed Ruth's math abilities or lack thereof.
2. This same adult has communicated their opinion to other adults in front of Ruth on more than one occasion as an explanation for Ruth's poor math outcomes.
3. This same adult holds only one expectation for Ruth when it comes to math "Ruth can't do math".
So at the advanced age of 7 with an extensive educational career behind her (second grade) Ruth knows with every part of her being that she cannot do math and so does this influential adult.
Ruth loves puzzles, is willing to spend 30 minutes struggling through both flat and three dimensional puzzles.
Ruth loves to cook and intuited fractions on her own in the process of preparing her favourite cookies.
Ruth can't do math because she is 7 years old and in grade 2 where she is learning about math.
What needs to happen for Ruth to change her inner story:
1. Her math teacher must hold an optimistic and curious opinion towards Ruth's abilities in math
2. Her math teacher must communicate this to other adults often in front of Ruth
3. Her math teacher must teach expecting Ruth to be successful
Ruth is not bad in math
Ruth is learning about math