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Department ofMathematics and Computer Science

Learning Mathematics: Generalities

How to think about your mathematics preparation

Sometimes students build up a lot of emotions about mathematics. This page is meant to help you put things in perspective and think about how to embrace your inner mathematician.

Did anyone every tell you, “You’re really not a math person!” or perhaps, “You’re really a math person!” We don’t believe either statement is helpful at all. We are all math people equally! We all need to work to build our skills. Nobody is born knowing mathematics.

Instead of imagining that mathematics is a talent that you either have or don’t have, we invite you to adopt a growth mindset. Tell yourself, “Others have learned to do these things and I can too!” Your brain is still growing. Stanford professor Jo Boaler has written a now-famous article about growth mindset that you might find encouraging.

A mathematician named Francis Su from Harvey Mudd College has written a book that we recommend highly. It’s called Mathematics for Human Flourishing. (Yale University Press, 2020). In it, Professor Su describes mathematics as the birthright of every human being, meeting our basic human needs for play, beauty, freedom, justice, and love. Here’s a video of a presentation Professor Su gave during a recent visit to SCU.

We also want you to know about our Math Learning Center, where students can connect with tutors and peers to build strength in mathematics. If you want to work on a particular topic, their “Power Up!” sessions can be just what you need.