Like many students, I scoffed at the idea that 'There are no stupid questions.' This arrogant and misdirected belief was born of years of being a student who didn't have to ask many questions. Then I went to the Math Olympiad Summer Program (MOP) after my 10th grade year. The first classes started with Professor Rousseau writing 'Counting' on the board. Good, I thought. I can count . . . Within ten minutes I was thoroughly lost. I stopped taking notes and waited desperately for the class to end. I didn't dare raise my hand - questions, I thought, were just for dumb kids. After class I found the professor and asked him to explain it to me again. He did so patiently. I didn't understand. But, rather than ask him again and risk making him think I was stupid and didn't belong at MOP, I thanked him, said I followed it all, and spent the next five weeks daydreaming in class while a great opportunity slipped away.
I'm not fifteen anymore. I'm still not very good at asking questions - perhaps that's a habit best developed early. But I do at least know that asking questions isn't 'just for dumb kids.' Accepting one's own lack of understanding rather than risking looking stupid - that's for dumb kids.