At today's homeschooling get-together I happened to sit down next to someone else's stuff, which was on the adjacent end table. At the top was a book called "Basic Mathematics: Collins College Outlines." Several of the moms had been looking at it, and I took a look too. It was something I hadn't really seen before: a basic math book written for adults. Very straightforward and efficient, and focusing on concepts and the inherent logic of mathematics. I said it looked like a pretty good text.
"Well you know," another mom said, "they didn't do math until last year." I quickly wondered if I had the right kid in mind because the one I was thinking of was very tall and could vote. The other mom continued: "But they used this book over the last year.... He just took his ACT's and he did really well."
There are other radical unschoolers in the group, and I have learned not to show surprise at things like "Oh, we didn't do math for the first xx years." So I didn't show much reaction. But consider what this person was telling me. This newly adult boy hadn't bothered studying math, at least not in a schooly way, for his whole life except for the past year. But-- one year, the right book, and-- the ACTs? No problem. Had he been fascinated with science, it might have worked out differently, who knows. But this boy is extremely musical, and the focus of his life did not require schooly mathematics. Only the college admissions people did, so... fine. A book, a little daily practice for a year, and presto-- great ACTs.
I don't have a "point" to finish with, because honestly, I'm still taking this in. What if the people who hate math don't need to bother with it until they're nearly adults and it's much easier -- cognitively and emotionally? What if all that middle-school math anxiety is for naught?