It’s perfectly normal to encounter people who will very readily tell you that they “can’t do math”. They say it almost as a badge of honor. I think, though, that they are really saying something else.
My question is, what are they really saying? I’m afraid of math (or of failure)? Math is hard (I don’t want to work that hard)? I had a bad experience in a math class (name your reason)? Someone told me I’m not good at math? Someone told me I’m stupid?
As I am getting to know my students during the first week of class, one of the things that I want to know is how they feel about math. So I ask them. I also ask them some other questions that might help me get to the why behind those feelings. I use the survey shown in the photo. It is taken in part from a survey in the NCTM Assessment book and in part from a survey that a friend gave to her students. You can download the survey by clicking on the text below the photo.