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October 8th, 2016, 04:53 AM   #1
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I'm bad at math and it's hindering me from pursuing my dream education

People who are good at math and excelled at math in school - do you feel like you've always been good at math? Was it always easy?

I'm bad at math. And I mean, really really bad at math. I have troubles with logical thinking. Anything abstract makes me lost. I remember that this has been consistent since I was a child. I don't have a problem with solving mathematical problems through formulas. I don't have a problem with solving mathematical problems if I know what to do. And I guess that's my problem. Any mathematical concept that requires thinking in several steps makes me feel retarded. I've always mastered the basics of math, but never seemed to grasp the higher levels of something. And I know why. At the basic levels, you don't have to understand. At the basic levels, memorizing a strategy or method is all that it takes. You just need to remember that you have to put an x or y at the right side and you have a solution. But what if that isn't sufficient? What if the problem requires you to resonate logically, something you can't memorize? And your brain has no idea how to proceed or what to do. It's like walking around in a block in some town you've never been to or never seen before and you have no idea how to find your way to location x. You're not sure which route to choose. You walk around and you pass caf├ęs, grocery stores and fancy buildings. But you can't find location x. It's not there. And then you ask someone for guidance. And that person tells you which way to go, where to turn and where to stop. You listen closely and feel unsure. You embark on your journey to location x and it's still unclear where you're heading. Did that person tell me to turn right behind that alley? Where am I? After a long time of wandering around in blindness, you call your friend and ask them for help. They turn up and show you around. Finally, you've found location x. And then the next day, you're heading toward location x again and it still feels horrible in your stomach. You can't find it. You're half looking where it is. After some time of looking, you find it. And then you have to find location y. Some of your friends haven't been there but they have found where it is. They're already there, but you... You haven't found it. You are still wandering around and feeling lost. And the cycle repeats.

This sounds crazy, but it's how I feel about math and logic.
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Last edited by skipjack; October 9th, 2016 at 03:08 AM.
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October 8th, 2016, 05:08 PM   #2
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do you feel like you've always been good at math? Was it always easy?
Nope. I tend not to believe that some people are just 'naturally' talented at things.. It's a consuming and wasteful thought to have for someone trying to pursue their dreams. Definitely there are things that may make someone seem this way though. Things like their upbringing and early education, maybe their parents are teachers etc. And even if some people are like this, how is it going to help you? (hint: it's not)

Step one is to stop comparing, and start working. Which is why I'm not going to answer this question (apart from saying 'nope') .

I don't have a problem with solving mathematical problems if I know what to do.
As my high-school math teacher once said... All math is easy once you know how... That goes for anything really. But it's true; very very seldom does someone start learning a new topic and be able to instantly improvise and solve complex problems within that topic. It may seem this way at times, but that would most likely be because they current mathematical knowledge overlaps to other areas of math, and they are able to draw from what they know, and what they already understand.

At the basic levels, memorizing a strategy or method is all what it takes.
This is mostly true. Especially in school. You can scrape through by pattern matching and memorizing different methods. True understanding takes time, and it takes even longer to apply your understanding too.

You might read through your textbook and feel totally comfortable with the concepts that are being presented. You feel that the general idea is clear in your mind. But perhaps you then try to do an example, and all of a sudden you feel your understanding comes crashing down in a heap and you're just left with nothing. Or in your words, wandering around in some alley. At this point it helps to start with very simple examples, even trivial ones just to build your confidence a bit.

It's worth mentioning that sometimes the converse is true. You might have to try a few examples before fully understanding a concept. In this case you have a go at an example, then go back to the text and read the parts that relate etc.

All I can say is that you seem committed and that you really care about mathematics, which is what it takes to get better at something. Don't overthink. Do the work. And face problems head on when they arise (feel free to post on this forum!).

Last edited by skipjack; October 9th, 2016 at 03:06 AM.
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October 8th, 2016, 10:56 PM   #3
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I used to suck at math. Got horrible grades through high school. Now I am a college student and I have gotten all A's in my math classes. In order to do this I went back to the drawing board and started off with the basics like 2+2. I continually put effort into understanding the material and practicing a lot. And of course coming here for help and tips from the math gods.. In general, I put true effort into the study of mathematics which has now transformed into a passion. Hard work pays off.
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October 31st, 2016, 01:16 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by aintmyfault View Post
I don't have a problem with solving mathematical problems through formulas.
My experience was the opposite when I was a child. I had no problem guessing the right answer of some questions, but had difficulties writing it down in formulas. I solved most of them in my head logically, and didn't know the standard formula. So, during the math test I usually just wrote my final answer without showing the works because I totally had no idea how to write them. My answers were right, but some teachers accused me of cheating. Fortunately, my math teacher knew that I was that skilled.
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