Now, I’ve got your attention.
My name is Margaux. I’m 16. I’m studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) subjects and interning at a tech startup – WorkingIt.com.
So, what’s my problem?
I’m scared of problem sets? Say what?
What are Problem Sets?
Problem sets are problem solving and decision making STEM based homework and exercises, that I have to suffer through daily as a homeschooler.
Aside from doing the problem set, I’m expected to write a narrative on how to solve the problem.
I study on math, software (Java), and physics problem sets every day. Some are easy. Some are OK. Some are brain busters.
When they are brain busters, things happen. I stab my pencil on my notebook. I scream like crazy (OK, internally). I have to walk around until I can get back to the problem set.
I think all STEM kids go through this because we are under pressure to do good in really hard STEM subjects.
The Head Game
My biggest battles are not with the problem sets but with what’s going on in my head. Specifically the messages I give myself.
I think that I can’t do the problems before I have even worked on them. I don’t want my teachers (my parents) to look at me with disappointment, disapproval, and frustration. It makes me ashamed.
Even though I understand the subjects, I’m not confident that I can do the problem sets. I freak out and go through a mental list of bad things that can happen because I don’t think I understand the material.
There’s a voice in my head that tells me:
“You might have to re-learn this.” “Don’t get too confident.” “You might have to do more problems and you’ll be behind on all of your other work.”
I get antsy and lose focus.
When I become like this, I forget how to solve the problem or I won’t try at all. I’ll stare at the problem, but I’m not trying to solve it. I’m trying to figure out how I can escape the frustration that comes with solving the hard problem.
Mastering the Game
I’m learning how to beat the mental game. How to clear my head when I get frustrated. How to stop escaping the problem. How to figure out how to solve the problem.
At these times, I give myself a lot of reassurance. I become my imaginary cheerleader.
Even though I still dislike going through the grit of doing problem sets, I’m building resilience and self-discipline. Those are hard lessons to learn. I’m learning what engineers, programmers, and entrepreneurs do day-in and day-out:
Solving problems and fighting the head game.
<script type=”IN/Share” data-url=”workingit.com” data-counter=”top”></script>