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April 26th, 2014, 08:29 AM   #1
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I suck at university math

Hey there,

I have a problem:

As soon as I get asked to prove something, I get it all wrong.

So how does this work?

When I was in college, a math teacher once told me
"You don't understand math, you get used to it"

It's just terribly frustrating to do problems and then have the impression to have only a passing understanding of it. It feels like I am spinning my wheels.

I think I got one or two and it took me a ridiculous amount of time to get them.

When I read the answer to the proof problems, eventually, it all makes sense, but I can't seem to come up with the answers on my own.
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April 26th, 2014, 02:23 PM   #2
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Start with some simple proofs and work through them until, as your instructor said, you get used to thinking out a proof strategy.

Any special subfield of mathematics that you are interested in?
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April 27th, 2014, 04:22 AM   #3
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Could you describe your difficulty more precisely, perhaps with examples? You are saying that you have problems with writing proofs, but from this quote:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spook View Post
When I was in college, a math teacher once told me
"You don't understand math, you get used to it"
it seems more about understanding what you read.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Spook View Post
It's just terribly frustrating to do problems and then have the impression to have only a passing understanding of it. It feels like I am spinning my wheels.

I think I got one or two and it took me a ridiculous amount of time to get them.
It is not clear what kind of problems you mean here. I find many problems in geometry difficult, not only proof-related, but also the ones where I need to calculate or construct something. They often require a nontrivial insight or additional construction, an there is just no general procedure for finding it.

Problems with proofs also fall into two kinds. Some proofs require ingenuity, a nonobvious trick. This skill is acquired only with practice, and some people and better at it than others. On the other hand, I see lots of attempts on math forums that just break the basic rules of proofs. They are similar to writings with many spelling and grammatical errors. If a person has a dictionary and makes an effort to learn the rules, he/she can definitely become better at it.

There are books that teach writing proofs. Please consult this and linked questions on math.stackexcchange.com.
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April 27th, 2014, 06:39 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spook View Post
When I was in college, a math teacher once told me
"You don't understand math, you get used to it"
I think this was an impersonal you. It would perhaps be clearer to say:

"One doesn't understand mathematics, one gets used to it".
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May 26th, 2014, 07:53 AM   #5
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What problems are you having difficulties with? Can you be more specific?

What would you like to prove?
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