Lessons from a Struggling Math Student

Math teacher Ben Orlin has all the usual complaints about students. They don't do their work, don't show up for help, and settle for memorizing facts instead of working to truly understand the material. Unlike many teachers, however, he knows better than to label his students as lazy and unmotivated—in part because he once walked in their shoes. In an essay of compelling honesty and empathy, he writes about how he himself once struggled during a class on topology (the funky science of shapes and spaces), and took refuge in the very same procrastinating behaviors he sees in students. His story demonstrates many features of perfectionism, including: 1) How Blindsiding Makes Things Worse Orlin: “Thanks to a childhood of absurd privilege, I entered college well-prepared. As a sophomore in the weed-out class for Yale math majors, I earned the high score on the final exam. After that, it seemed plausible to me that I’d never fail at anything mathematical.” When Orlin did start failing, therefore, he was … [Read more...]