Why Do So Many Smart and Gifted Kids Think They Don’t Like Math?

Deborah Ruf, PhD
5 min readFeb 2

To me, math was a problem for a long time. I wasn’t terrible, but some of my school years of math instruction, it simply didn’t work for me. I went on to teach elementary school and found math was one of my favorite subjects to teach, especially for the years I taught 6th grade. I had somehow picked up on the fact that math is simply a language, and you can say many “math things” in many different ways. And you can find different ways to solve the problems in different ways, too.

But that language problem was a big problem for me on and off throughout my learning times, including graduate schools.

My closest girlfriend since high school became a math teacher. To her, math was great and made sense. Our IQs and basic standardized test results are virtually the same. We know that because we were competitive enough to compare scores at every opportunity. But she was always better at math than I was. She’s participated in many of my writing projects since then. And we’ve both figured some things out about this math thing with the help of each other’s perspectives.

My MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) personality profile has vacillated between ENTJ and ENTP. The important part here is the N-Intuitive domain. Intuitives like to see the big picture. We like to know why we are doing something and what the overall point is or we can’t even listen very well. For example, in 9th grade the teacher introduced “New Math.” But she didn’t tell us that. She just jumped into the details of it all. As it turns out, New Math was a beautiful explanation for all sorts of good things and I eventually got it and loved it. But it was torture for me for most of that year.

My friend’s personality type preference is ESFJ, and the S-Sensor is the key here for her math prowess and view. Give her details, give her reliable rubrics and things to memorize and she’s off to the races, or math heaven anyway. Big picture isn’t her thing. And she’s really good at math. I’ve written extensively on the personality topic. See my post here on Medium: https://medium.com/@deborahruf/smart-kids-personality-types-and-how-they-adapt-or-not-to-school-29a6af198835

I moved beyond classroom teaching to be a High Intelligence Specialist, and my chosen path was to…

Deborah Ruf, PhD

High Intelligence Specialist & Writer, Dr. Ruf writes about highly intelligent people from birth to very old age. www.fivelevelsofgifted.com