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January 26th, 2015, 03:19 PM   #1
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Starting from the bottom and the bottom starts here!

That title isn't meant to be disparaging, promise!

So I left school at 16 with a poor grade in maths (GCSE grade D in the UK); haven't done anything mathematical since (28 now), save for a brief interlude which had to be cut short, and now wanting to get back into it. I don't think I was bad at maths, I just hated how it was taught so didn't pay attention in school!

I don't like mathematics when it's taught as a series of operations or facts, e.g. "1*3=3, 2*3=6" etc. I like to know why 1*3 is 3 and 2*3 is 6

Unfortunately I think this leads me to get bogged down a lot on relatively simple ideas, always asking why!

Anyway just wanted to say hi and hopefully you'll be seeing a lot more from me
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January 26th, 2015, 03:47 PM   #2
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Welcome! Glad you're here. I love it when people want to learn more about math, no matter how good they are at it when they decide to. I'd also suggest watching some videos from Khan Academy, Patrick JMT (on Youtube) and the like if you're starting out, they're very helpful.
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January 26th, 2015, 04:40 PM   #3
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I was actually thinking of making a post asking about people's favourite maths education sites. I'm on khan academy, but I do find it a bit too prescriptive in it's teaching style; I find that I'm not having any trouble learn to do things but I feel like I'm just following rules rather than really understanding what I'm doing. Don't get me wrong it's a great tool but it's not the only tool I need atm.

I'd love to find a resource that provides models and mathematical experiments that require different levels of knowledge and skill to play around with. I've found a few odd examples but nothing that provides a logical route through different levels of maths.
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January 26th, 2015, 11:36 PM   #4
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Have you tried the GCSE textbooks that your nearest reference library will have? Also, try reading a book by Frank Land called The Language of Mathematics. The library should have a copy (or be able to get one for you to borrow).
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January 27th, 2015, 07:15 AM   #5
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I haven't been able to get my hands on a GCSE book yet but my girlfriends mum is a teaching assistant and she's managed to swipe a revision text book and some test papers for me.

I've also got some Open University text books that go from elementary level up to first year Uni stuff which I'm working through.

I'll have a look at that other book, thanks!
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January 27th, 2015, 07:47 AM   #6
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Usually material doesn't really explain what is going on until a higher level -- basic arithmetic is usually taught as just "do this then do that". But we should be able to fill in some of those gaps for you.

As for learning the basic material, I'll go with the others and suggest finding a good textbook. You can't learn math without doing math (no more than you could learn to ride a bicycle from reading a book), so the exercises should help. If the text is helpful as well, so much the better.
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January 29th, 2015, 01:51 AM   #7
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Revision text books are actually really good teaching resources because they are designed for people who struggle at the subject. Because of this they can sometimes be just as effective, if not more, at helping students learn, compared to 'core' textbooks that contain the entire course material. The drawback is that they sometimes don't contain full explanations for things and generally have fewer questions.

That being said, 'core' textbooks are extremely useful. If you can buy one, I would try and get hold of an AQA (first preference) or Edexcel (second preference) book. Don't get anything else.

I would leave the test papers for now until you get more confident with mathematics. They are good tools for assessing ability (i.e. give it a go and look at the questions you get wrong/can't attempt so you know what to study) and for revising what you know, but not for learning new things.

If you have the money, I can also recommend seeing a private tutor. Tutors have the added benefit of motivating you, helping organise the material you need to learn and will be there to respond to any queries/difficulties you might have/face.
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January 29th, 2015, 08:02 PM   #8
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Since you're just beginning once again, I'll also provide a piece of advice from my experience: although there probably are books on this topic (I just haven't read them,) try also to solve as many problems as you can mentally. Picture the numbers, give them colors, attach a personality to them too (if you can hold such thoughts long enough in your head.) Do this while you are simultaneously trying to solve the problem in your head. And practice it as often as you can.

I've always found numbers to have an intensely aesthetic experience of their own ever since I was very young. When I looked into this aspect a little bit more as an adult (as to why I love and keep returning to maths,) I found that these feelings associated with numbers (and imagined numbers in case of algebra) had as much to do as the satisfaction there is to be gained in taking an initial proposition to its logical conclusion.

You'd be surprised as to how quickly you build up a rapport and understanding by solving problems mentally as often as you can. Even to more complex problems, by having an intimate relationship with numbers with some sort of pictorial memory, you'd often get an intuitive approximation around which the answer lies, which immediately guides you in the right direction. I suppose in the end, it's just an advanced form of pattern-seeking, and they don't necessarily need to have a meaning behind them. And it's definitely trainable.
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