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 August 25th, 2011, 09:40 AM #1 Member   Joined: Aug 2011 Posts: 78 Thanks: 0 Do you have to be good at arithmetic to be a good at math? I find mental arithmetic on the spot quite challenging. I always forget which numbers I am adding, subtracting etc and always have to repeat the original problem. With pen and paper I find these problems much more simple and I absolutely love algebra. I find it easy to perform long division and multiplications but find it stuff doing basic math mentally. Does this make me thick and less able at math?
 August 25th, 2011, 10:03 AM #2 Global Moderator     Joined: Nov 2009 From: Northwest Arkansas Posts: 2,766 Thanks: 4 Re: Do you have to be good at arithmetic to be a good at mat Not necessarily! Arithmetic is just a small part of the math world. Maybe you have superb abstract and intuitive skills... who knows ?!? :P
 August 25th, 2011, 10:18 AM #3 Senior Member   Joined: May 2008 From: York, UK Posts: 1,300 Thanks: 0 Re: Do you have to be good at arithmetic to be a good at mat Not at all! A lecturer once asked us what 6 * 8 was in the middle of a lecture, presumably because he couldn't be bothered to work it out himself! It goes without saying that the converse is also true; you do not need to be a good mathematician to be good at mental arithmetic.
 August 25th, 2011, 12:28 PM #4 Senior Member   Joined: Jun 2011 Posts: 164 Thanks: 0 Re: Do you have to be good at arithmetic to be a good at mat not necessary, but of course you need to know arithmetic in order to be good at math, your question if to be good at arithmetic, my definition of good at math is "knowing formulas by heart and know when to using them and how to use them for different questions, then you would be able to score higher, therefore you are good at math" i am good at arithmetic, but when i do math problems, i rarely use arithmetic, (simple 2x-x doesn't count at this spot since this is too easy) but more algebra, only little arithmetic is required(if you are in middle school) or in geometry, as long as you know how to add, subtract, multiply and divide, you will be fine because usually the questions are testing you if you know the rules you need for this problem, not how good you are at arithmetic. if you dislike arithmetic, don't bother with it, just know how to do it, later on you might find it fun to do it. here is a fun trick to do 45x55 in 10 seconds in your head!, you do 50x50, which is 2500, then minus 5x5, which is 25, then subtract 25 from 2500, you get 2475, which is 45x55, why? a^2-b^2=(a+b)(a-b)! it is (50+5) and (50-5)!, you expand it, and get that answer, quite fun you might find it is, and this is why i love arithmetic more than others, (yeah, it's simple) no big deal if you are not bad at arithmetic, just know the procedure to do arithmetic and do it slowly, you will get it right, as you practice, you get better at it, and you might find it fun, or at least that's how i feel. wuzhe, the arithmetician or math, who knows how to take square roots, but don't know about bases(which is more important than square roots) (how sad it that?)
 August 25th, 2011, 01:12 PM #5 Global Moderator   Joined: May 2007 Posts: 6,762 Thanks: 697 Re: Do you have to be good at arithmetic to be a good at mat Personal note: I have a Ph.D. in mathematics. My two worst subjects in elementary school were arithmetic and spelling. I still have problems balancing my checkbook. When I type responses on this (and other forums) I rely heavily on the spell checker.
August 25th, 2011, 01:26 PM   #6
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Re: Do you have to be good at arithmetic to be a good at mat

Quote:
 Originally Posted by wuzhe my definition of good at math is "knowing formulas by heart and know when to using them and how to use them for different questions, then you would be able to score higher, therefore you are good at math"
I disagree heartily. Being able to pass exams with high scores, even at undergraduate level, does not necessarily mean you are a good mathematician. You don't need to be able to memorize methods and formulae; rather, you need to be creative, excellent at problem solving and able to 'visualise' abstract concepts. I'm sure others can come up with other criteria.

I would hold that examinations are a very poor method of judging mathematical ability. They are the only way, however, of economically and fairly comparing certain abilities in a large group of students.

August 26th, 2011, 12:27 AM   #7
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Re: Do you have to be good at arithmetic to be a good at mat

Quote:
Originally Posted by mattpi
Quote:
 Originally Posted by wuzhe my definition of good at math is "knowing formulas by heart and know when to using them and how to use them for different questions, then you would be able to score higher, therefore you are good at math"
I disagree heartily. Being able to pass exams with high scores, even at undergraduate level, does not necessarily mean you are a good mathematician. You don't need to be able to memorize methods and formulae; rather, you need to be creative, excellent at problem solving and able to 'visualise' abstract concepts. I'm sure others can come up with other criteria.
And I whole-heartedly agree with mattpi in his disagreement of that definition. Memorizing formulas has diddly squat to do with being "good at math." It means you can memorize, that's all. Knowing when to apply them has some value, but it doesn't have near the value if you don't know when to apply them outside of a specific test. Which is why I don't think the test score means anything. It means you figured out how to take a test. It may also mean you're good at math class, rather than math. On the other hand, getting bad scores doesn't mean you're bad at math. It may mean you don't understand the instructions. Or perhaps you just didn't study. Or you have test anxiety. Or, for instance, I'd probably flunk most high school math tests beyond first-year algebra, simply cause I haven't studied it in so long. But that doesn't make me bad at math, far from it - just means I've forgotten everything. Of course, I think you have to have reasonable abilities at it to do well on the tests. But it's certainly not the only or best measure.

I think you need to distinguish between being good at math, being good at tests, being good at class, having a certain level of knowledge, or more importantly, a certain level of current knowledge, the ability to memorize versus the ability to truly understand, and the ability to apply to something you've never seen before as opposed to just applying to chapters you know are on the test. And being good at math is different than being a genius at it.

August 26th, 2011, 12:54 AM   #9
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Re: Do you have to be good at arithmetic to be a good at mat

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 Originally Posted by mathman Personal note: I have a Ph.D. in mathematics. My two worst subjects in elementary school were arithmetic and spelling. I still have problems balancing my checkbook. When I type responses on this (and other forums) I rely heavily on the spell checker.
Then you need to hire me to balance your checkbook. (This is probably why I'm an accountant instead of a mathematician.) I also rarely use spell checkers and always did great in grammar, which is odd cause I always hated writing (formal stuff).

August 26th, 2011, 12:22 PM   #10
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Re: Do you have to be good at arithmetic to be a good at mat

Quote:
Originally Posted by Erimess
Quote:
 Originally Posted by mathman Personal note: I have a Ph.D. in mathematics. My two worst subjects in elementary school were arithmetic and spelling. I still have problems balancing my checkbook. When I type responses on this (and other forums) I rely heavily on the spell checker.
Then you need to hire me to balance your checkbook. (This is probably why I'm an accountant instead of a mathematician.) I also rarely use spell checkers and always did great in grammar, which is odd cause I always hated writing (formal stuff).
My main problem for my checkbook is in subtraction, when the subtrahend digit is larger. When I go over it carefully later (having been given the correct balance) I usually find the error. I'll assume you were kidding when you said I should hire you.

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# i'm not good at mental math

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