Know what you don’t know

I was recently watching a TEDx talk called, “Five Principles of Extraordinary Math Teaching” and I recommend you watch it for yourself. The speaker at one point said, “Not knowing is the first step toward understanding”. I immediately wrote that down on paper as it struck me as important for students to know. Not knowing something is a blessing, since it is an opportunity for you to improve!

I would say the next step is to, “know what you don’t know”. That is, you need to be aware of what you don’t already know and take action to improve in that area. This action will come in the form of thinking carefully on your own and asking questions whenever needed. When you don’t understand something right away do you see this as a blessing or a failure? Do you know that you can learn anything, provided you put enough time and effort into working on it?

On the other hand, if you always know the answer to problems right away, you may not have enough of a challenge. You may not experience the thrill of thinking and solving problems that you have never solved before, on your own. Knowledge is earned only by experience and thought, it is not handed out for free.

So, if there is a concept you don’t understand or a skill you haven’t yet mastered, take action immediately to work out the details on your own. See it as an opportunity to grow and be thankful for it. There will always be things you don’t understand and that to me is what makes getting up every morning exciting. It is okay to note be talented in all areas and again this is not a failure, just a fact of being human. Failure in one area should make you appreciate your successes even more.

My talent was always in math and somewhat in science too I suppose, as I was able to apply my math skills there. In University, I took a class in science called Circuit Theory. I found the class didn’t interest me at all and struggled with it, barely passing in fact. Looking back, this was a humbling experience that showed me it is okay to not understand everything. It made me see the importance of focusing on my area of strength in math, since that is what I really enjoyed doing. To me, math is play, rather than work and it energizes me to do it just for fun. There will always be lots of things I do not understand in mathematics and that is amazing to me.

In what ways do you see not knowing as a blessing? What efforts have you made to figure out what you don’t know so that you can improve? Thanks for reading!

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