People often talk about wanting to increase their physical fitness—they want to be more flexible, agile, and have more energy, but what about being mentally fit? One of the greatest exercises we can do to build our mental fitness is math. Aside from boosting our brainpower, math can also build our confidence, make us feel capable, and help us to tackle obstacles in other areas of our lives.
You might know Danica McKellar from her role as Winnie Cooper in Wonder Years, but what you might not know is that in addition to her lifelong acting career, Danica is an internationally-recognized mathematician, New York Times best-selling author and advocate for math education.
In this conversation, we explain how you can build mental fitness through math, and gain confidence that nobody will be able to take from you. We’ll talk about how math can help you to overcome life’s obstacles and feel more capable. Lastly, we’ll tell how you can rebrand math so it is no longer something to fear.
If you haven’t already listened to my first episodes with Danica, you can find them here:
BUILDING MENTAL FITNESS THROUGH MATH
- Digital dementia is becoming increasingly common, we’re so dependent on our smart devices for basic thinking. Doing math is a great tool to counter this and maintain mental fitness as we age, it’s like going to the gym for your brain.
- When you’re at school and have to be in math class anyway, you might as well take advantage and get good at it.
- Through math you can gain that confidence that comes from feeling smart, which is one of the best gifts you can give yourself—nobody can give it to you and nobody can take it away. Even as an adult you can give that gift to yourself.
- Check out Danica’s books
- The specific book mentioned: Math Doesn’t Suck
- One of the major stumbling blocks people come up against with math is fear.
OVERCOMING LIFE’S OBSTACLES WITH MATH
- Math can help you to build mental and emotional resilience.
- When you find yourself up against a math problem you don’t think you can do, and you struggle your way through it and succeed, you’ve taught yourself that you’re stronger than you thought.
- You can then start to apply this outside of math. When you come up against an obstacle in life, you’ve developed that skill of overcoming obstacles so you say: “It’s a great thing I’ve got me on my side, because that looks hard, good thing I’m here.”
- Find yourself a challenge, you will get stronger by practicing it.
- Danica’s own example: writing a book a few hundred pages long was very daunting. She thought: “do I know how to do this?” Overcoming that and seeing it through to the end was very powerful.
- When you do something you never thought was possible, you can then ask yourself: “what else can I do that seems impossible?”
- You become more able to handle all of life when you have that confidence that comes from feeling capable, and you can grow that, you develop that.
- Feeling capable is not something you have, it’s something you do, and math is just one of many ways to do it.
REBRAND MATH IN YOUR MIND
- Rebrand math in your mind. Rebrand it so it’s not your old childhood demon anymore, it’s a thing that makes you powerful.
- How do we get to that? By doing math in different contexts (like the fun exercises in Danica’s books).
- Episode mentioned: Activating Wonder & Fascination in Learning with Danica McKellar
- Doing math exercises is an opportunity to exercise your brain. Try to view them as an opportunity to grow and build your confidence, practice and get addicted to the feeling of being smart and mentally fit.
- Quincy Jones rebranding problems: “I have no problems, I only have puzzles.”
- You can find Danica’s math books for all ages at mckellarmath.com
- Take a screenshot of this episode, tag us both on social media (@danicamckellar & @jimkwik), and share one thing you can do to build your math superpower with us!