One of my summer school students – I’ll call her Liliana – was woefully deficient in her math skills. Going into 5th grade this year, she should be prepared to work math problems with fractions. However, she was still struggling with simple addition and multiplication. After working intensely for over a week, she grasped basic multiplication quickly.
After successfully solving four multiplication problems, I told her, “OK, you’re ready for division.”
Her eyes grew large. She stepped back from me. “No, not yet.”
“Liliana, you’re ready.”
“Just one more.”
“No, you’re ready. What’s the matter?”
She just stood there, silent.
“It’s ok if you make mistakes at first. That’s how you learn. Look how far you’ve come!”
She looked at me doubtfully. I gave her a problem to sort out, after working one through for her.
She returned with her work. She had made one small mistake. Her brows were furrowed. She was looking at her mistake.
Yet she had successfully worked out several steps correctly before that.
“Look at how far you came, Liliana! Look at how many steps you got right. Focus on that. And now, study your mistake. This is learning.”
She’s still working on division. It will take time. But you and I know that if she’s determined and works consistently, she will master it.
How many times do we shy away from the next step? How many times do we say, “Not yet”? And how many times do we focus on our mistake and not our successes?
Take that next step, even if you don’t want to.