‘Smart’ is Ridiculous

Math education sucks. That article is about a teaching method that breaks down math problems into simple steps and results skyrocket. Confidence is built, angels sing and the world is cloaked in glory. The point is that math educators needlessly complicates its instruction. People shouldn’t be scared of math!

I consider myself super lucky to not be terrified of math. As a result, I’m in a job that uses lots of the stuff every day and I couldn’t be more pleased about it.

My lack of fear started when I was 9 or something and figured out that the lessons in the book worked in sequential order. So if I wanted to do the next day’s work early (and perhaps slack off that day), I just had to turn the page and go for it.

The thing is that I just kept at it and finished the text for the year about halfway through. Then I started doing the next year’s text.

Like Miles Bennett Dyson, I was able to turn this knowledge from the future into outperformance in the present and turned in a strong standardized test. To my eternal bafflement, people started calling me ‘smart’ and my confidence skyrocketed. I started expecting more of myself and actually started achieving more. Well, eventually. I was still pretty lazy.

‘Smart’ is such a culturally loaded yet intellectually bankrupt term. Was it ‘smart’ to spend an extra 20 minutes one night at home to do the next day’s homework? Hardly. I really think intelligence is about being a determined and resourceful worker. Hustle, scrape, push yourself.

And don’t worry if you can’t figure out some super-complicated problem. The complexity of a system or task is limited by the comprehension of the laziest person who needs to understand it. Thinking is work and most people are desperate to avoid work.

The likelihood that you’ll need to do something genuinely hard outside of school is virtually zero.

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