# You never did math in high school

As a teacher I encounter all of the typical kinds of students. There’s one kind of student I routinely encounter, usually in a freshman calculus course, that really boils my blood: the failing student who “has always been good at math.”

*Oh* it’s so annoying! And it’s even worse to hear because the stuff we teach in calculus isn’t really math either. The irony is so thick in the air when a student says it I’m surprised I don’t cough. Invariably, they never actually understood the “math” they were always so good at. I don’t get angry because they don’t understand the material (indeed, that’s the point of the class!). I get mad because they have absorbed a message about what constitutes mathematics that is, at best, misguided.

Of course, the problem is deeper than a handful of students who accidentally say ironically stupid things. The problem is that American high school students are...