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Scarlett's avatar

Why is Math so hard to grasp ?

Asked by Scarlett (911 points ) October 17th, 2010

I never understood math, it’s like reading chinese or another language to me which doesn’t make sense to me.

I don’t know how to get better at it, keep on practicing ?

I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to understand, but every other subject – english, government, history, science, is so much easier for me.

Is there a reason why I’m so bad at it ? I tried to study but I just don’t get the point of doing it.

I’m a really artistic, creative, and philosophical person so I think this is why I’m just dumbfounded by it… Because 2+2 will always equal 4, and there isn’t any depth to it.

I know how to do elementary and middle school, but as far as geometry and algebra I just really suck.. and I have no interest in it.

I wonder if it’s normal to get all A’s in every subject but completely fail Math ? It’s the only subject I’ve ever hated, and don’t have a use for, but I know it’s unavoidable :(

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27 Answers

Ivan's avatar

Are you taking a math class currently?

Brian1946's avatar

I think in most cases something can be hard to grasp if you don’t like it.
I like math and I’ve done well in it, but I think I’d make a lousy fashion designer or fry cook.

Seek's avatar

I wondered the same thing all through school. I had problems in elementary and middle school as well, but it really came into light in high school. I mean, eventually 2+2=4 makes sense, though it takes me longer than usual to come up with it, but x=gb*9 is hopeless. Forget graphing and all of that nonsense.

It took until I was in my early 20s to learn that I have dyscalculia. Because it’s not as obvious or as widespread as dyslexia, it often goes undiagnosed. If you’re experiencing any of the other symptoms (often confusing right and left or cardinal directions, difficulty judging distance, mis-counting change, etc.) you might look into being tested.

Mikewlf337's avatar

Math was my worst subject. I never got above a C in it. Don’t feel bad you are not the only one lol. I always struggled in math.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I really struggle with math, I’ve never understood it. When you compare it to a language you don’t understand.. I couldn’t agree more.
My take has always been two things. First being that I don’t like math. It’s hard to understand something that you really don’t care about. Second, if you don’t have a firm grasp on the very basics you will never understand the rest of it. Math is sort of like legos, you have to build on a base and just add to what you already know, because it will still apply. I don’t think that I ever got a firm grasp on the original concepts, so advanced maths are nearly impossible for me to understand at this point.
I got straight A’s in every subject I’ve ever had, I made the honor roll for every class… my B’s and ultimately C’s were always in math related subjects. I had to work hard to get those B’s and C’s, also. I finally got a D in trig, and I quit. Never took another math class again. I was not a D student, and I figured I was better off just quitting while I was ahead. ha.

Kayak8's avatar

If you like art, you can probably visualize stuff in your head. Spend one day watching a carpenter build a set of steps or roof trusses and geometry will come to make a totally different kind of sense.

MissAnthrope's avatar

It’s not that unusual to be good at English and bad at math, and vice versa. Some people do better with right-brain stuff, others with left-brain stuff. Usually, though, the people who do well with right-brain subjects do better in Geometry than Algebra (and left-brainers Algebra over Geometry). Have you had chemistry yet? If so, how well did you do?

From 3rd grade (introduction of multiplication) on, I’ve always struggled in math. I hated it, totally didn’t get it, and it was so incredibly frustrating. By the time I got to high school and was introduced to Algebra, forget it. I had no idea what the hell was going on. The only reason I passed my first Algebra class was because I cheated off my friend the entire semester. The next Algebra class, I nearly failed out and was made to take a study hall during that class period so I could “catch up”. I got a B in Geometry, but it made sense to me (way more visual and as long as you memorized formulas, it wasn’t so hard).

When I got to college, I tested really, really low in math. Like, remedial math. My major is in the sciences, so obviously I had to do a lot of catching up and I wasn’t looking forward to it. So, what I did was this.. I had to start in Arithmetic (ha!), so I decided that I would forget everything I was ever taught and learn it all from scratch. Got an A, then went on to pre-Algebra, where I got another A. Algebra, A again. By this time, somehow, magically, I got the concepts and I never thought I’d ever say this, but math became fun.

I enjoyed doing my homework and it felt like it was a series of puzzles for me to work out. I found that pretty fun. I think, though, that the key here is to have a good teacher and a good learning environment. College Algebra was a struggle for me because the class had over 200 people, the lectures went by really fast, and then the lab (where we practiced the concepts and turned in homework) was often different from the lectures. All in all, very frustrating and difficult.

You might look into getting a tutor.. it sounds like you could use a patient person to go through it, to answer your questions, and to explain the concepts. Another thing I learned that helped me quite a bit is to not ask “why”. I remember in high school, they would lay out Algebra concepts and I’d just go, But… why? When I re-started learning math, I realized that that is a waste of energy, because there may not be an answer (or if there is, it’s very complicated). So, I learned to simply accept these theories and formulas without asking why… it just is. Letting go of that need to deconstruct ‘why’, and accepting these ideas, helped me immensely.

flutherother's avatar

I never got very far in mathematics but it does fascinate me.Take the sequence of numbers 1, 2, 3, 4…..... .it seems as dull and as boring as ditchwater but within it the prime numbers appear apparently at random and yet with an orderliness no one can explain. The world of numbers is as vast and mysterious as the real world and, most mysterious of all, the two worlds are connected.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I think it’s more of a psychological thing than anything else….

tranquilsea's avatar

I really believe that what makes students poor at math is poor teaching. Math can be beautiful and seemingly magical.

My favourite, favourite math teacher is Edward Burger. He is gifted at showing you just how fun math can be.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I agree with @tranquilsea. I think I would like math if I understood it. I also blame poor teaching on my inability to make sense of it.

nikipedia's avatar

I had lots of shitty teachers who made me think I was bad at math. When I got to college and was taught by real professors it came to me much more easily.

tranquilsea's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie I highly recommend getting The Joy of Thinking. It isn’t currently on sale but it will be for about $80. Prof. Burger and Prof. Starbird are co-lecturers.

Thinkwell.com offers Prof. Burger’s Algebra, Trig and Calculus courses for really reasonable prices.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I think the thing about upper math is to quit worry about why they tell us to work equations the way they do. Just do what they say, even if you don’t understand how or why it works. Eventually light bulbs will start turning on in your head.

JLeslie's avatar

I have not read the above answers.

I am a math person. I do believe that some people are better at some subjects than others. I had a very difficult time with history. There probably are actual physiological reason for why some people cannot do math well, how their brains are wired or something like that, but I think if that were the case you would have always had trouble with math, even when you were younger.

Probably you are not very interested in it, so it is a chore to you. Also, you don’t see much benefit to it, so your are not motivated to learn it maybe. What I tell people who have trouble with math, is that as a math person myself, I did not seek to understand math, I just learned the steps, learned the pattern, learned the equations. It is later that it starts to make sense. Think about being very young and repeating 2+2=4. You knew that before you really understood why it is 4 most likely. Almost all of math is like this through high school, it makes sense later.

You use math every day, and don’t realize it probably. As an adult I use it to figure out how much grass seed to buy for my lawn, estimating the square footage of lawn I have. I figure out howmuch the dress I want will be at 30% off. I helped my husband last week with an equation he had to figure out for his job, it was pure algebra, he works in HR and had to develop a plan regarding bonuses for his employees. In my house I use math when decorating, using square footage, or estimating a picture size that would look good on a wall. I split recipes in half or double them. All sorts of every day stuff.

tearsxsolitude's avatar

I think it’s because the people who teach math are people who like math and it comes easy to them. So when they teach it they have trouble putting it into words that can easily be understood for the people that don’t naturally pick up on it.

finkelitis's avatar

I’m a mathematician, and even I’ve found a lot of math classes uninspiring and uninspired. If you get to see the real meat of the subject, though, then I think it can be one of the most profoundly beautiful subjects out there.

Why is it hard, though? Well, it’s probably unmotivated and seems purposeless. It also can require a very abstract type of thinking that doesn’t come that naturally to most of us, and that does require a lot of practice.

If I could recommend anything, I’d suggest reading A Mathematician’s Lament, by Paul Lockhart. It’s the kind of piece that might change your perspective on the subject forever. I also have a blog about the artistic, creative kind of mathematics you tend to never see (plus some other stuff).

ratboy's avatar

@finkelitis: the link to your blog doesn’t seem to be working properly.

Devlin has an interesting article of his own relating to this topic.

Akua's avatar

Yea I feel like a total math retard. I still count on my fingers.

Scarlett's avatar

I’ve just always really sucked at it, so I wondered if I had a problem lol.

BUT, I was always very good at every other subject. Honors too.

Except Math lol.

I have no idea why, I just don’t care for it.

I’ve tried sitting in class, trying to do it, study, but I don’t see the point.

I know it’s not my strong skill, and I don’t care about it.

Scarlett's avatar

@Ivan – Not at this moment but soon I will be. It’s just hard for me to understand. Any other subject, even if challenging, I can usually work on and enjoy learning it… Just not math :(

Scarlett's avatar

I feel like learning about number and time, like time travel, is interesting to me… Ha !

I also am interested in reading about quantum physics…time travel…but that’s as far as it goes !

zophu's avatar

I think math is usually the worst taught class, in grade school at least. With the other subjects you have more allowance (still not nearly enough) for sentiments to be associated with what’s being taught. Even if a biology teacher subscribes to an insane memorize/regurgitate method of teaching, students will still associate what they are learning with their personal understandings of the natural world to some degree. With math, everything is meh + bleh = pleh unless the teacher works hard to put some life into it. . . hey, meh plus pleh does equal pleh

jerv's avatar

tl:dr

I never found math to be hard at all. I also have an easy time with most physics. What trips me up are biology, chemistry, and anything that I cannot see or visualize. I understand heat because I can visualize atoms moving faster as heat energy (temperature) increases, but I cannot visualize conjugating a verb.

However, many creative types are not good at harder sciences and most science geeks are not very artistic; it seems to be an either/or proposition is most cases. And if you think you’ll have no use for math, you are in for rude shock when you hit adulthood :D

Many lenders and retailers count on people not being able to do the math and paying far more than they should for stuff or getting roped into a contract with terms that straddle the line between loan sharking and sodomy.
Geometry is only truly useful to those that build things (I am a machinist, so I need to know geometry pretty well) and Calculus is likewise rather limited in relevance, but Algebra can save you a lot of heartache and pain if you get good at it.

finkelitis's avatar

sorry for the bad link above. Try this: http://mathforlove.com/blog/

mattbrowne's avatar

Because teachers don’t start with real-world examples which should be really good attention grabbers able to excite students. Curiosity, motivation and a positive learning atmosphere is a prerequisite, especially for math. It’s the way our brains work.

Folks need to be spellbound when the math teacher tells a story first and then asks the question how this or that can be determined or solved.

Only after that will the students see formulas for the first time.

Here’s an example:

A young woman, 5’ 7” tall, driving a car hits the brake when a signal starts to flash.

A young man, 6’ 2” tall, driving a car hits the brake when a signal starts to flash.

Question 1: Who is faster hitting the break, the woman or the man?

Question 2: How much?

Of course a teacher would provide additional information about nerves and their lengths inside the human body.

There are plenty of far more complex real life problems. Problems young folks are interested in.

For example:

Question 3: How much more energy will a photovoltaic system installed on a roof heading south absorb compared to a roof heading west? What about a roof with an angle of 10 degrees versus 30 degrees?

With the right motivation math is a lot easier to grasp.

Boring classes make it look like gibberish and students think about something else.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Scarlett You hang in there. You immerse yourself in it, and after a couple of months it’s like a whole new universe starts unfolding like the petals of a flower. It’s an incredible feeling…..hang in there. And don’t worry about how certain steps work the way they do—but if you HAVE to try to understand, recreate the problem with a super simple math problem, like 5+3, that you already know the answer to. It’ll slowly, slowly make it’s self clearer and clearer.

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