Confidence is More Important than Knowledge

I tell fearful students all the time, “The difference between you and me is confidence.”

I watched The Wizard of Oz this weekend and noticed the “math” that Scarecrow says when he gets his brains:

What he says is that the sum of the square roots of any (any!) two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the other side:

Utter nonsense.

But amazingly confident!

Knowledge is underrated.

Do your students have confidence? It's the best route to knowledge!I’m not any better at math than anyone else. But what I do have is confidence in three areas:

  1. Confidence in my ability to think (about anything)
  2. Confidence in asking others for help
  3. Confidence in my answer (regardless of degree of “correctness”)

And I’m comfortable with being wrong when someone points it out.

Confidence makes the difference.

Confidence is what sets someone with “brains” apart from someone without them.

Wizard of Oz gave Scarecrow confidence, not brains. And it’s what all of us, as teachers and facilitators, should “give” to our students. Or help them find it.

And often the route to finding confidence is as fraught with danger and peril as the quest to obtain the witch’s broomstick!

What do you think?

How can you help your students find this confidence? Share your thoughts in the comments. And ask others on Twitter and Facebook!

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One Response to Confidence is More Important than Knowledge

  1. Hi, I have been having a really tough time with math and reading this article has clarified much of the anxiety that has been plaguing me. I am a mathematics and economics major at UCLA and I have just been dismissed because of poor grades. I was undergoing through depression and anxiety–in short, life had overwhelmed me. I’ve been reading and meditating to get back on my feet. They’ve helped clear me out of the depression and redefine my goals, but I did not understand why I was failing in math. I’ve always loved the subject, I was a math tutor in community-college, I was literally scoring 100% on all my calculus exams, I could grasp and fully understand the material simply by sitting in a lecture, I felt good.

    I understand the difference now. After coming across your website I agree with you completely regarding the ‘mystification’ of math. I had psyched myself out of my passion. I had run my mind in circles until I had this behemoth math anxiety that intimidated every line of thought when I was studying or doing math. In fact, I was so distracted by the act of doing math, that I was not thinking about the math in front of me at all!

    1.Confidence in my ability to think
    2.Confidence in asking others for help
    3.Confidence in my answer (no matter if it is indeed true)

    These are the catalysts for a clear mind! Especially the first point. It’s what I believed when I was succeeding in school and it’s what I had forgotten when I had begun to fail and lose my motivation to do math. It goes beyond career preparedness, math truly excites me. I can no longer let people deprive me of that to any degree whether they realize it or not (‘oh math must be so hard, i dont know how you do this, blah blah blah)

    I realize I have always loved math! I have felt my overall best in and out of the classroom when I was truly understanding the math I was studying at the time.

    For me personally having confidence in math=having confidence in life
    In this way, studying math improves me as a person to a vast degree.
    I truly feel renewed as a student and as a person.

    I cannot stress it enough,

    Thank You.

    Jordan J Mendoza

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