*This is the first in a series on Math & Vulnerability, inspired by Brené Brown.*

Recently I had the privilege of hearing Brené Brown speak at the Dad 2.0 Summit.

As I listened to her talk of Daring Greatly, I noticed that everything she said applied to the treatment of math.

I began to compose an article on her insights – along with the implications in math teaching and learning. But it got quite lengthy.

So this is the first in the series on math and vulnerability as inspired by her talk and her book Daring Greatly.

Here’s the series:

- Math and Vulnerability (this one)
- Why Math Isn’t Fun
- Debunking the
*Right Answer Hoax*
- The Story You Make up about Math – And Why It’s Wrong
- Share Your Math Stories – Talk Openly and Debunk the Cultural Default
- Your Kids Learn Math Vulnerability from You (so Knock It off)
- You Can’t Hotwire a Connection – in Relationships or in Math

### What is Vulnerability?

“Vulnerability is **uncertainty**, **risk** and **emotional exposure**.”

As defined by Brené Brown ()

Well by golly, math is **uncertainty**. Rarely do we know what’s gonna happen with a math problem when we start. Especially a word problem.

And **risk** is what you take as you put pencil to paper – attempting the first steps to solving a math problem. There’s no telling if what you’re doing is right. But you gotta start with something.

When you’re asked to present your work on the board, **emotional exposure** is what you experience. Even turning in your work for grading or being called on will expose you.

### Doing math is vulnerable.

According to Brené Brown’s definition of vulnerability, doing math is vulnerable!

And you know – being vulnerable isn’t fun. It’s hard. It’s stressful.

Oh, and it’s worth it!

Which brings us to the next post in the series: *Why Math Isn’t Fun*. *(I’ll come back and link to it when it’s up.)*

### How about you?

What do *you* do that’s uncertain, risky and exposes you emotionally? Teach? Parent? Do math?

Share your thoughts in the comments and with your PLN on !

Very interesting that this would happen, especially to our fear(less?) math leader! It should be a great empathy tool to keep in the back of your mind to help to connect with students.

Curiously, Wil, it’s having a strange effect in the classroom. Because of the increased empathy, I’m getting super angry at the disservice we, as teachers, have done to these people all these years.

My blood boils.

Hi

Lovely article and something that I have seen first hand. As a teacher of science and Maths I have presented at conferences solely to Maths/science teachers. All is going well when we discuss the socio ecconomic impact and pedagogy impacts of interventions, but as soon as I mention variance, ANOVA and other statistical tests to assess the validity of my claims, you can see the audience change.

I wonder if its time for statistical literacy in schools alongside numerical literacy?

Cheers

Glen Gilchrist

This might be an audience issue. The other people in the room at my conference had no problem with the stats. They would even ask questions about it. So I was the fish out of water.

For you, though, I wonder if the presentation of the stats adds value to the (intended) audience. If someone really wants to know that your claims are valid, perhaps giving them a web link to the details might be good.

And regarding statistical literacy – a general idea of mean, median, mode and even some standard deviation stuff seems like a good idea. But I’m not sure if ANOVA is something the standard person will really need.

Although, maybe they should… hmm…

Thanks for stopping by, Glen!

Nice article Bon. Although I teach adn blog about math, there are basic mathematical ideas that I have totally forgotten because I have not totally used it for years. Like the ANOVA which Glen mentioned. I don’t know what is it for. LOL

I’m lost on that one too, Guillermo. 😀

I am not sure that statistical literacy is the only problem. The majority of people view statistics as a sociopolitical way of measuring approval. You see statistical analysis all over the media to show who agrees with whom,and many other forms of approval. On the psychological level we all desire approval. So from that logic, even the most educated of us still face fears in social settings that we are not “experts” in the topic of discussion.

Where statistical literacy comes into play is that those who are not well versed in statistics actually brings out two fears. The need for approval, and fear of the unknown. Maybe if more people were better educated in statistics we could at least lessen one of those fears.

( This is just my opinion I am not an expert or an educator, but this is the way my often over-analytical mind breaks it down)

I like the way you think, John!

I wonder if they were talking about stuff I didn’t know about that wan’t based in some sort of math would have the same affect. Probably.

It also likely had to do with mental exhaustion. I was jazzed about presenting and then listed to quite a few talks.

My cup was full.

Thanks for your thoughts!

As a guy who has often done statistics for money (right out in public where people can see) but struggles with math beyond basic calculus, I think it’s almost an accident that math and stats are taught in the same departments or thought to be the same thing. Modern statistics doesn’t even begin till the Renaissance, really, compared to so far back in time we really don’t know for math. I really think that the statistical mind is different from the mathematical one, and that on some level either you see numbers as fuzzy, comet-like balls with possible hard centers you’re trying to attach a probability to, or as the hard edged gems that mathematicians seem to think in.

One of my favorite stats professors once said, casually but seriously, that “1.4 is a good enough square root of 2 for small values of 2.” Made perfect sense to me.