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Elementary Math Fractions, Percentages, Word Problems, Equations, Inequations, Factorization, Expansion


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  • 1 Post By dolcevita
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October 5th, 2016, 11:41 AM   #1
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Starting from scratch

Hi all

I hope that this is the right area for my question!

I am in my late 20's and am sitting some old high school maths exams in a few weeks (GCSE - UK). I was always a quick learner in school and got A grades.

Fast forward 10 years and I am so frustrated, depressed and feel utterly helpless with how much I am struggling to learn maths! Particularly algebra (right now, I really do want to bash my head against a wall attempting to understand how to solve quadratic equations).

I think my issue stems from truly not understanding WHY we have to do certain things in maths. I'm reading, doing the activities and sometimes doing quite well actually but then I hit a brick wall. I cannot understand why we have to do certain things when solving, for example, so it just feels like I am memorising rules and applying them which to me doesn't explain why we have to do it.

I really want to be good at maths. I do enjoy it when it's going well, but when its going awful I want to cry out of frustration.

So does anyone know of any websites, books, or other sources which can help someone who isn't quite "getting it" or perhaps any good sources for adult maths?

(Apologies for the long rant! but I am quite stressed about it. Thanks )
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October 5th, 2016, 11:46 AM   #2
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Can you give some examples of "why"s that pass you by?

YouTube has loads of mathematics videos, and there are also plenty of websites, but not really knowing either them or your problems makes it hard to recommend anything.
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October 5th, 2016, 06:17 PM   #3
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Welcome to the forum.

Quote:
I think my issue stems from truly not understanding
This is a pretty big one. Most of school/high school math can be completed to a pretty decent level just through rote learning.. In fact i even remember my highschool math teacher telling the class that "if you aren't interested in using math in the future then you can just rote learn and probably pass with a C+ or B-"! Pretty bad i know. So definately, understanding is paramount to independent learning etc.

However, sometimes in math you can tumble down the rabbit hole. The hole consists of, "But why? What's the origin of this? Where did it come from?". All of these are valid questions, but sometimes are asked out of context, and don't help you progress in some situations. It takes practice to narrow your focus onto the things that are relevant and matter given your situation.

All of this is just generalisations, and as v8archie has said, it's hard to help without knowing what you are stuck on in particular.
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October 6th, 2016, 12:35 AM   #4
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Thank you v8archie and Joppy for replying

Just a back story - I am basically teaching it myself while I work, albeit with the help of a very helpful boyfriend who is very proficient in maths. However, I can't always ask him so it's mainly on myself.

So I've bought the books and they're good, but I don't think that they teach a lot of core concepts or the 'idea' behind what it is that I'm learning. I'm doing the activities and getting most of it correct. Like you said Joppy, I'd say its mostly just rote learning at this point!

But the problem is, I don't truly understand why I'm doing what I'm doing and it's driving me a bit loopy. I want to learn it properly - especially as I plan to study it at A-Level (college level).

So at the mo, I'm learning how to solve and factorise quadratic formula (this is for the higher paper, which I'm doing). But for the life of me I can't grasp what the point of it is! Why factorise? What's the whole point of it? Then I get in this mental rut... and shut down.

Maybe it's because I'm an adult learner so a bit more stuck in my ways.

I'd love to be able to read a book on applying maths to real-life situations (particularly algebraic/quadratic equations, trigonometry, geometry, linear graphs) as these are all areas that I've been going through and have often thought "why am I learning this? why does this rule, and that rule, even exist?".

It's quite hard to pen it down what the issue is but I think at the core of it, it's really not being able to see the point of it all and how it will help me in real life.
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October 6th, 2016, 02:12 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dolcevita View Post
Maybe it's because I'm an adult learner so a bit more stuck in my ways.
Yes this does happen. Sometimes the mind of a child is somewhat more accepting than that of an adult. The converse is also true however...

Quote:
Originally Posted by dolcevita View Post
It's quite hard to pen it down what the issue is but I think at the core of it, it's really not being able to see the point of it all and how it will help me in real life.
I think this is one of the things that deter a lot of people from mathematics. It is the land of the abstract, and it requires 'big thinking' to bridge the gap between the real world and the abstract world (sometimes there isn't a bridge, and this if fine too).

I think the wrong thing to do is look at your quadratic equations on paper, then walk outside and look around and say, "Hey! Where are all the parabolas! This knowledge is no good to me...". For the most part, it simply doesn't work this way. Rather, we can walk outside and ask ourselves how we could model the trajectory of someone throwing a ball say.

Regardless of what you want math to help you with in real life, studying mathematics will bring rigor, structure, and preciseness into your life and your thinking.

But to better answer your question, the next step if figuring out how you want mathematics to help you in real life? Do you want to do mathematics for the sakes of mathematics, or do you want to use it as a tool to help you achieve something else?

EDIT: I thought i'd just mention also that sometimes the most basic math is the most abstract. Believe it or not, things start to make a lot more sense the more math you do.

Last edited by Joppy; October 6th, 2016 at 02:18 AM.
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October 6th, 2016, 02:48 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joppy View Post
Regardless of what you want math to help you with in real life, studying mathematics will bring rigor, structure, and preciseness into your life and your thinking.
This.

Also, people who say "maths is not useful to me because I will never use it" often use it as a dodge to avoid doing work; the usefulness of maths is so high it is virtually self-evident (at least to most people). The problem is often that people get stressed out, anxious, upset or disheartened by getting incorrect answers or leaving everything to the last minute.

Some tips with learning stuff:
- Leave plenty of time to do your work
- Don't lose heart if something goes wrong (it's going to happen, so there's no point worrying about it)
- If something seems extremely difficult, go back and revise the thing before it that's a bit easier, even if you've already done it
- Every now and again, go back and revise something you've forgotten (forgetting stuff is totally normal, so revising old stuff should be routine)
- Keep doing it
- Don't give up or doubt yourself

If you can nail those, the entirety of existing human knowledge is yours to learn... you just need to go and get it (and in the right order! )
Thanks from Joppy

Last edited by Benit13; October 6th, 2016 at 02:56 AM.
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October 6th, 2016, 05:10 AM   #7
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What does this stuff mean? What's it useful for?

At this level you might ask "what does a spanner mean?". Or what's that stick with a hole on my Swiis Army knife for?

The basics of mathematics are essentially the tools that you need master in order to take models apart and see what is going on; or to construct new models; or to create beautiful structures in mathematics.

A large part of mathematics is about spotting patterns, recognising forms that you can already understand. The basics of mathematics are there to hone this skill to some extent, but also to provide the tools you need to manipulate something more complex into a form that you already understand.

For example: (possibly over-complex for your level, but I'll try)
On Tuesday last I helped a class to realise that they knew the solutions to a particular form of an equation: $$\frac{\mathrm d^2y}{\mathrm dx^2} + cx= 0$$
Then, this Tuesday I showed them how they can use this, some techniques they learned a year ago and basic algebra to solve the more general equation
$$\frac{\mathrm d^2y}{\mathrm dx^2} + b\frac{\mathrm dy}{\mathrm dx} + cx= 0$$
And, by recognising a pattern in those solutions, they are now able to solve equations of that form using high-school mathematics and no more. This equation describes exactly how, for example, a object moves under forces that depend only on the speed and position of the object.

You probably won't understand the symbols there, but you can see how more complex ideas arise from those very basic seeds. You don't have to wait for university-level mathematics to have useful applcations though. If you know that Tesco is selling multipacks of 12 packets of crisps for £5.40 and Sainsbury's is selling multipacks of 10 for £4.40, you can use basic algebra to work out which gives better value.
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