View Full Version : Former mathphobes; What turned things around?
09-18-2003, 07:07 AM
Math was always a neutral subject for me. No special aptitude, I cruised through algebra and trig in HS but crashed hard against calculus in college.
Chemistry is the class that made it all come together. After that so many things made sense. Either that or it made me focus on the application instead of the mechanics of the math.
Anyway, I'm looking for alternative paths for when/if my own kids come up against the math wall.
09-18-2003, 07:38 AM
When I became a large-scale methamphetamine manufacturer, that's when things turned around. If you misplace a decimal point while you're mixing the chemicals up, for instance, you could get blowed up REAL good. And if you make an addition error when you're counting out the money to pay your lieutenants with, you could get blowed AWAY real good.
09-18-2003, 08:51 AM
In my case, it was switching out of gifted math classes and into regular ones at the end of ninth grade, after years of being in classes that were paced just a little faster than I could follow. (Also, in those days and in that school district, there was a widespread attitude among the math teachers that any activities that might make the subject seem remotely enjoyable or relevant to everyday life were strictly for the benefit of the "slow" kids, while the "bright" kids should be able to learn everything by sitting still and watching the teacher work problems on the board. I don't know if this is still true; I hope to goodness it is not.)
Duke of Rat
09-18-2003, 09:05 AM
For me, it was when I went from having to do it (HS) to paying to learn it. That's an oversimplification, but I just didn't like math in HS. After I got out of the HS mind set of "man, I'd rather be ANYWHERE but here!" I started learning math. I began looking at it as a puzzle to solve, not a ball and chain to drag around. It became enjoyable, and I became the teachers aide to the head of the math department and even did some tutoring.
Interestingly, in HS my math grades were so-so (I was in advanced everything classes), but like the OP, chemistry made a lot more sense. I excelled in that ( advanced Chemistry and Chemistry II) while the people who smoked me in math classes largely struggled through chemistry. I just got it.
09-18-2003, 10:23 AM
I hated math in high school and was convinced I was incredible inept at any sort of math.
Fast-forward to college, 10 years later, and the math requirements for my degree. I was scared to death I would fail. Much to my surprise, I excelled in math.
I think the change came about because I'd become confident in myself and my abilities in all scholastic areas. Guess I was a late bloomer.
09-18-2003, 12:33 PM
I pretty much fell in love with the subject after I started learning about *mathematics* and not arithmetic, and by "arithmetic" I mean up to and including integral calculus. There's a beauty and elegance in things like abstract algebra, analysis and proofs & theorems, and I fell for the poetics of it as much as anything.
I'm kind of convinced (probably naively) that if we let students get a glimpse at what mathematics are about rather than just teach them the nuts and bolts, they'd get a bit more excited about the subject. To me it's analogous to teaching students music: of course you have to teach them fingerings, scales and how to read, but unless you let them play some nice tunes they're going to get pretty bored with the whole endeavor.
09-18-2003, 12:54 PM
I hated math for the majority of my academic life. This, more than likely, stems from the fact that for my first five years of school I had these tyranical nuns trying to beat this stuff into me. Sister Helena (Sister Hell to me) used to like to read our grades aloud in class "zero again, lauramarlane? At least you're consistent" Then there was that dreadful time in fourth grade when I found out about word problems. What?! Math and language arts combined?! This just seemed like some sick trick--the English language had just turned on me!
I pity passed most of my public high school math classes (that means I got a token D for doing all my homework--even though it was all wrong--and being quiet in class.) But in college I had to suck it up and figure it out. I had a friend spend time tutoring me and I found out that it wasn't the horrible, incomprehensible beast I thought it was. It just took someone taking the time to explain it in a way I could understand it--not standing over me with a ruler helped lots, too! :) Then I took a logic class for my philosophy minor and learned how to do proofs--so this is what she was trying to teach us in geometry--what da ya know!
09-18-2003, 02:55 PM
When I was in high school (grades 9-12) we were required to take 2 years math and 2 years science. After that we could drop both subjects, which I promptly did. Hated them both. I took the equivalent of 6 years Social Studies and English instead. Now I'm a business manager for a small business and make my living crunching numbers and doing statistical forecasts. The 15 years prior I was in banking doing much the same thing. I love it.
I have no idea what caused the drastic change. Ditching math in HS is one of my few regrets. It takes me longer to grasp higher math concepts now because I didn't lay a good foundation then.
09-18-2003, 03:58 PM
My experience: I was a victim of the "new math" craze of the 1960's-in JR. HS , I was totally confused-the math they were "teaching" was a jumble of algebra, set theory, and other tidbits (including multiple-base counting systems). The whole thing was just so confusing-then I went to HS-fortunatley they tausght algebra the "old fashioned way"-and I did well in it! I graduated college with a BSEE.
09-18-2003, 04:35 PM
Ya know, I think a lot of people have problems with math because teenaged brains are not fully developed.
My mom is a German teacher, and she told me one time that there are certain grammatical concepts she just doesn't try to teach, even to seniors, because studies show that the average 18 year old simply does not have the ability to even recognize these things in their native language, much less learn them in a second language.
As far as German grammar goes, that may or may not be bullshit, but it really clicked with me, because there are certain math concepts I remember seeing in high school and being completely confounded by them. I mean, I just didn't have the vaguest idea how the hell you were supposed to use the stuff.
Then later on when I saw it in college, I said, "Oh. Duh. That's easy. Why the hell couldn't I do this in Mr. Reed's class?" And I've never been mathphobic, so it's not like I had a bad attitude about it--I just couldn't do it.
We tend to forget that even once your body is done growing, your brain is still changing. Teenagers aren't just ignorant and inexperienced, they are cognitively different from adults.
And, unfortunately, the way our educational system goes, most people aren't exposed to much math as adults, and people who have a terrible experience in math as adolescents run away from it their whole lives.
I tutored a woman who was terrified of doing math for her LSATs. But she picked up a pre-calc textbook, and we worked through some exercises together, and she had no difficulties. She just picked it up, baddabing-baddaboom. She claims that I'm the greatest teacher ever, because when she tried to do this stuff in high school, it was absolutely impossible for her. While there's no doubt that I'm a kick-ass teacher :D I think the real reason it was easy was that her brain is now fully developed, and ready to learn that material.
So, mathphobic folks, don't be afraid to revisit the subject. You may find that you're better at math than you ever were in school!
09-18-2003, 06:33 PM
I was afraid of math all my k-12 career. 1st through 4th grade were hell for me, as that school thought that humiliating students who weren't capable of doing math flashcards was a good idea. I did better in junior high, as I had Geometry, which was more concrete to me than algebra at the time, and I had very good teachers.
My highschool has the most worthless math department I've ever met. It's full of teachers who don't care because they have tenure. After a year of one teacher who made a point of the fact that he often took off work in order to go golfing (completely ruining any continuity in our math education), I stopped taking math once I had the required courses in.
Physics was the hook that finally got me back into math.
By the time I got to the end of my freshman year in college, I figured out that I really really liked physics and wanted to be an engineer. So I took a Physics class that required calculus and took my first Calc class, and managed to learn calc on the fly in order to do physics. I have a BSCE now. I still hate math when it's just theory--I have to have a use for it, and even then, it's only a tool. However, I'm no longer afraid of it. :)
But flashcards can still make me cry.
09-18-2003, 07:44 PM
I was never really a mathphobe, but it got a lot more enjoyable when I started to learn some applications. Also, I figured out in about my second year of grad school that it's much easier to learn math by observing several special cases and then gradually generalizing instead of the other way around. Generality is of course the great merit of mathematics, but this leads to the mistaken notion that the best way to teach math is to state a theorem as generally as possible, then apply it to specific cases. This doesn't work for most people, based on my experience as a student and teacher.
09-18-2003, 08:36 PM
I was a decent math student up until grade 9.. then they tossed us into this 'new math' which woulda been about 7 years ago and everything fell apart. I mean.. what the hell was the point of algetiles?! (algebra tiles I seem to recall having these little tiles and each one stood for a different equation and we only got to use them a few times during the unit and the rest of the time had to imagine them in our heads)
Slipping into high school I managed to just pass the 'regular' math courses (10, 20, 30 stream) and ended up dropping down to the 33 stream. I excelled at that course! Got an 80.. then drop me back into 'regular' math and somehow I ended up with a 50.
I can do math, it's just the abstract stuff that has me banging my head on the wall. What really pulled math together (helped me get that 80 in 33) was the fact that I was taking physics. When I can actually see how it applied to things it made more sense. Rather then that number is there because that number is there.
Chemsitry wasn't helping to pull together the math though.. after Physics the math done in Chem is pretty simple and you are shown how it applies to the equations so I was getting away with a 90 in that.
09-18-2003, 10:38 PM
I'm still in process. I was sick a lot in the first few grades, missing whole sections of the times tables that I still am weak on. Then the New Math hit and my family was moving once a year and my 8th grade teacher figured we were in the "fast" class so all he had to do was write the assignment on the board and leave. In high school they still had me in the fast class though I had no idea what I was doing and I ended up having to take the second semester of Algebra over in summer school when it finally started to click. I was neck and neck with this other guy for the best in the class but ended with a B, with me unable to understand under what grading system a 94% average was a B. I had all the expected problems with Geometry and gave up. In college I took College Algebra and eked out a C-. Trigonometry went very well in the practical but crashed in the theoretical so I ended with a C.
Thirty years later I'm trying it again, butting my head against the same walls. The difference is that now I am finding my math skills need to improve so I can improve professionally. So, being an adult with problem solving skills I'm trying to use them to learn. Wish me luck.
09-18-2003, 11:44 PM
Don't let the absolutes found in mathematics become intimidating. My CPA loves to spout off about how accounting is an "exact science".
I'm far too idealistic to accept such drivel and always enjoy pointing out the adjective "exact" can not be used to describe his craft. I mean , how can it be called exact when there are an infinite amount of numbers between
09-19-2003, 05:37 AM
For me it was when it became interesting. I don't do homework most of the time, so I never really learnt my times tables until well after I had to, which made things harder. But when we learnt algebra (which mum taught me) I was really good at it, and could use it for all sorts of (for me) interesting problems. Now, when I'm bored in class, I'll just do a maths problem, and I'll feel better.
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