The Baby Elephant Principle: Breaking the Chain

What’s the Baby Elephant Principle? Basically it’s the idea that an elephant that is tied to a stake as it’s growing up will think that it can’t move even when it most definitely can. Want the full gist? Check it out.

One of the problems that I’ve dealt with recently since graduation is letting my past dictate what I can or cannot believe that I’m capable of. Recently, however, as I’ve been working with Mark, I’ve started to regain an understanding that we can’t really do anything until we’ve done it. The opposite holds true too as well. We can never know we can’t do something until we attempt it. Not everyone is going to be an NFL star, but they don’t know that until play football and give it their best.

Recently I was reminded of this several times as I have gained several students who think that they can’t do math because somewhere in the past they had a negative experience. Perhaps someone told them that they were bad at it or they had several tests in a class (which could have had a bad teacher) that just gave them a bad taste for math. But regardless of what the actual cause of the attitude is, we can address the attitude directly.

How would we fix this particular problem? Well, for one – it would probably help if they wanted to fix their problem. 🙂 But after that, it would help if they actually put effort into it. People learn at different rates. Some people, including myself, have incredibly slow learning curves – where others grasp an idea right away. Personally for me, I always had trouble with Algebra – especially when I was in college. I never got anything higher than a C. At the time I thought it was my teacher’s fault. But when I wanted to start teaching math, I found that reading the material thoroughly actually worked for me. I basically self-taught myself how to do Algebra… something that no teacher could have ever done for me.

The same thing can work for students – but again it’s if they’re willing to believe they can do it and take the time to learn how to do it. If they don’t do one or the other, chances are they won’t be able to accomplish the goal of passing the class to eventually get to graduation to potentially have a better life.

So what things in your past are keeping you from achieving goals you want to achieve?