Is a measly 27% on a math test a certain failure?

by Helene Louise  

As I wrote in “A Little Bit of Positive”,  I ended up studying economics despite that my objective was to avoid anything remotely math-related altogether. And, on my first university-level math test, I got a humiliating 27%. I was devastated and I was certain that there was no hope of me ever completing that first year, let alone graduating. 

Academic evaluations tell us how well we know something and how we rank in relation our peers. One of my daughter’s first primary school teachers, however, had an interesting perspective, which I have found very helpful. She said that rather than looking at our children’s marks as a reflection of how well they were doing, we should simply look at them as an indication of what they still had left to learn

Obviously, there are some tests which do have pass/fail consequences, like those that determine acceptance to specific programs. But for everything else, maybe there is scope to look at things differently. In terms of my own children, by trying to look at their test results more in terms of what they know and what they still have left to learn, our dialogue has centred more on learning as something inherently positive, rather than just a competitive process characterized by pressure to succeed and a constant fear of failure. 

I think the same can be said for other areas of our lives. If there is an activity that my daughter can’t do very well because of the effects of her stroke, then maybe it’s not necessarily an incapacity or a question of not being good at something. Maybe it’s just an indication of the starting point from which we can move forward. Looking at things that way has certainly helped us to keep motivated and more optimistic, even in the face of what might otherwise be seen as a “certain failure”.

Form is loading...