Girls’ Angle’s twelfth session starts up soon and we’ll be welcoming some new members. Often, our newest members approach math with a great fear of making mistakes. But to learn math well, you can’t be afraid to make mistakes. Apparently, the same is true of learning how to cook. In Gateau in a Cage from the second season of The French Chef, Julia Child offered this marvelous advice:
They [student chefs] go, “I won’t do anything like that…” And that is, I think, this is one of this…this awful American syndrome of “Fear of Failure.” And if you’re gonna have a sense of fear of failure, you’re just never gonna learn how to cook because cooking is, well, lots of it is, one failure after another. And that’s how you finally learn! For instance, you’ve got to have- develop what the French call “je-m’ens-foutisme“- I don’t care what happens! The sky can fall and omelettes can go over…all over the stove- I’m gonna learn! I shall overcome! If you’re not gonna be ready to fail, you’re not gonna be ready to learn to cook.
– Julia Child
That is great advice for learning math too! When you’re trying to solve a problem or understand some mathematical concept and you think you have an inkling of what to do or how it all works, try it out and see! Let’s not care if it doesn’t work! Let’s not care if your scratch paper ends up covered with number rubble, diagram debris, or symbol nonsense! The goal isn’t to avoid error. The goal is to gain understanding. If you’re not gonna be ready to fail, you’re not gonna be ready to learn to do math!