Notable Failures

Dr. Milton E. Larson, "Humbling Cases for Career Counselors," Phi Delta Kappan, Feburary 1973, Volume LIV, No. 6; 374.

  • Einstein could not speak until age 4 nor read until age 7.
  • Isaac Newton did poorly in grade school.
  • Beethoven's music teacher once called him hopeless as a composer.
  • Thomas Edison's teachers told him that he was too stupid to learn anything.
  • Walt Disney was fired by an editor because he had "no good ideas".
  • Caruso was told by his music teacher that he could not sing because he had no voice at all.
  • Leo Tolstoy flunked out of college.
  • Admiral Richard Byrd was retired from the Navy as unfit for service until he flew over both poles.
  • Louis Pasteur was seen as only mediocre in chemistry in college.
  • Winston Churchill failed the sixth grade.
  • An editor told Louisa May Alcott that she could never write anything that would have popular appeal.

    Expectations in Mathematics Learning

  • Among the "persistent obstacles to making significant changes in mathematics teaching and learning in schools (are) the beliefs and dispositions that both students and teachers bring to the mathematics classroom"
    -NCTM Professional Standards for Teaching Mathematics (1991)

    Society - The Failure Syndrome
  • "Some parents and other authority figures, as well as societal influences like the media, convey the message that not everyone is expected to be successful in mathematics... Such societal tolerance makes it less likely that all students will be motivated to sustain the effort to learn mathematics, which in turn makes the job of their teachers even more challenging."
    -Principles and Standards for School Mathematics, NCTM, 2000.

    Teachers - The Failure Sundrome
  • "Some teachers also believe that many students cannot learn mathematics, which supports those students in their beliefs that they cannot learn mathematics, which then leads to further disengagement. Thus, a vicious cycle takes hold."
    -Principles and Standards for School Mathematics, NCTM, 2000.