There’s a popular NYTimes op’ed titled “Is Algebra Necessary?” which questions the need for kids to learn advanced math. The author cites that failing algebra is a large reason why many students drop out of high school and post-secondary school. Moreover, algebra is not really required for most jobs or liberal arts studies.

This is the wrong idea.

Don’t get me wrong. I hate math with a passion – mainly because I’m absolutely petrified of it. The fear of math is so common, it has a name: number anxiety. In high school calculus, I started panicking before I finished reading equations. Once, my father, a computer programmer, spent hours outside the bathroom door trying to coax me out while I bawled my eyes out after he tried to teach me basic algebra. They enrolled me in Kumon where I learned the art of cheating.

**In North America, we are taught to fear math. **We are told that math is the sport of geniuses and the rest of us mere mortals should be very afraid. In Asia, kids are taught that anyone can do math with practice and on average, they do better.

But over here, the fear transfers from parents to teachers to kids to popular culture. There’s a similar problem in the African-American community with swimming. Parents who don’t swim are afraid that their kids will drown so they don’t enroll them in swimming lessons. But kids who can’t swim are at the highest risk for drowning. We can’t keep kids from learning advanced math simply because we’re afraid they will fail – doing so discourages them from ever succeeding.

You know what else is really, really difficult? Learning a second language. Floating on your back. Asking for a raise.

None of those things seemed all the difficult once you figured it out. None of these things seem particularly useful until one day, when it was suddenly crucial. Given the number of doctors, engineers and developers we need, we should be encouraging kids to embrace the difficulty of math like any other subject instead of perpetuating the fear.

P.S. I still suck at math but my Asia-raised parents say that I’m not so bad – I just never gave it a chance.

Here’s more proof that we’re afraid of math via Internet memes (and even more of them on my Pinterest board):

Photo credits: pics.livejournal.com, iwastesomuchtime.com, imgfave.com & lolsotrue.com

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Very true! It can all be down to the teacher you have too. We had one at school who struggled for about two weeks to explain one concept. We had a replacement teacher one day who explained it a different way, and the whole class had an ‘Ooh!’ moment as the blocks dropped into place.

Totally! And just being able to do math doesn’t mean you will be able to teach it well. And math skills build on each other so if your basic geometry isn’t so strong – it will effect all the geometry you learn going forward. I think that’s why I was so bad. My foundation was and is still shaky. Thanks for dropping by!

I always struggled with math in school, except for one year that I had a teacher that explained and taught in a way I understood.. the only year I had a decent mark in math – yay for good math teachers!

Great points, well said! Except I respectfully disagree with the last picture about algebra not being easy. Once you get it you get it and it can be easy!

I totally agree – I think that picture just goes to show some of misconceptions around algebra. Thanks for visiting!

I think the misconception about algebra is actually the point of the article.

That last meme? “LOL” indeed. SO true! 🙂

So do you believe that fear of math is a learned behavior? That our children are somehow socialized to expect that it is, indeed, evil? And if so, what do we do to get them to get over it? I have two kids, and I’m looking for ways to encourage them…

Great post!

Hi Mikalee! I totally think the fear of math is learned behaviour. I think kids benefit from hearing that it’s completely normal to not understand right away and that math skills, like any other skill, takes time to learn. I certainly wish that teachers had told me that. Thanks for reading!

Now that I am an adult I feel maths could have been fun if only we were taught it right….if only we were told about the spirit behind the equations and what the numbers correspond to…..

Hi! Thanks for reading. I don’t think I’ll ever find math fun but I think we’d value it more if we knew how applicable algebra actually is to every day life, finance, work, etc. And maybe if schools put more emphasis on teaching kids math rather than just teaching kids to pass math.

yes, true…

I tutor a lot of high school kids in algebra and I agree with you a 100%. Most of the students have this CAN’T DO attitude when it comes to learning math and that’s what keeps them from excelling. Once they overcome that fear, they realize how easy it actually is and even start to love it! Witnessing that transformation is one of the most rewarding feeling in the world.:)

Hi Ann! I applaud you for tutoring math because I think it takes a lot of patience particularly because of that “can’t do” attitude. I certainly had it and every failing mark reinforced it. If only we had more teachers and tutors who make math approachable. Thanks for reading!

Haha, I wish I could “like” this a thousand times. I’m getting ready to take the Massachusetts Test for Teacher Certification (MTEL) mathematics subtest for the seventh time. I’ve finished my entire elementary ed. Post-Bacc program, including my student teaching practicum, required coursework, state exams, and teaching portfolio. My school won’t let me graduate until I’ve passed this test. I’m going to be working with a new tutor and hopefully I will have a breakthrough instead of a breakdown, since practice tests, online refresher courses, and weekend workshops haven’t helped me pass, yet…

erm, Licensure, not Certification…

Hi! Best of luck with the test. You can do it! And if you ever get a student who doesn’t think they’ll be any good at math – you’ll have a really inspiring story to tell. Thanks for reading!

I too am a math-phobe and am convinced that trait is hereditary.though my father was brilliant at the subject I suck at math and my own kid aint too great at it either. truthfully it’s a left brain/right brain thing and frankly we’re good at what we’re most interested in. in my estimation the world should be full of music and art- that’s what I and my daughter excel at and the world according to me…….ha. still I’m guessing computer scientists might disagree. however I do like a good challenge every so often and I refuse to live my life guided by fear so… I do know 1+1 = 2 so I think pretty much- I’m good.

* thanks for the read- very mcuh enjoyed it.

I agree that there are genes that make some people learn math faster than others. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t or shouldn’t learn it. The world needs plenty of music and art – and plenty of math and science too. I’m so glad you enjoyed my post!

You are so right! I always liked science better than art because I never felt very creative, but I remember a classmate who feared being condemned to a life of a “starving artist” while scientists made money. As you say, the world needs music and art. I asked my classmate, who said “But scientists save lives,” “But without the arts, what are they saving them for?”

I was a just-below-the-minimum-pass-mark, passed-at-the-teacher’s-mercy sort of math student. I I could take it home and crunch it for hours, days, whatever- I could make a fair go it. But put me at a desk with a pencil and a calculator, and I was helpless.

Even so, I took Math until it came out my pores. I spent lunch after lunch with my math teachers. I sought tutoring. None of this brought up my marks appreciably, but some of the concepts did stick.

Now, if my kids go into engineering, I won’t be much help. But as they learn their basic math through elementary, and even early high school, I have a aerial perspective that helps me to help them. Basic math is useful all across the board, and I’m not a hindrance at least in that realm.

I have a lot to thank my patient teachers and tutors for. Kudos to all you educators who put in time with the slow learners like me. We’ll get it eventually. And it’ll help our kids, too.

Hi Dan! Kudos to you for never giving up. I too have wondered what will happen if my kids (don’t have any yet) ever asked me to help them with math. I don’t want them to see me panic! Thanks for sharing your story.

I had nightmares (literally!!!) about math, and almost failed twice. I also got very good grades sometimes, when I “forgot” math was difficult and that I hated it 😉 Totally agree with you! It should be well-taught, that’s what’s lacking! It should be more ludic, I don’t know…

Hi Aurora! I’ve gotten a lot of comments about how math should be taught differently. For me, I could always tell when a teacher wasn’t comfortable teaching math. They’d shy away from answering questions or ask other students to write answers on the board. It always made me think “well, if the teacher doesn’t even get it, what chance do I have?”. Thanks for reading!

I don’t even know math enough to give suggestions about how it should be taught LOL

But yes, certainly in a different way…the thing with me is even more complicated because I swear my math teachers seemed good – some were just ok, but others were really good, and still I never got it LOL

My brother ALWAYS loved math, and he also tried helping me, very patiently, no use…poor boy! LOL I don’t know, really, I guess the problem was that I just didn’t see any use for it, my curiosity wasn’t aroused…which is very dumb, I mean, the world is basically BUILT on math LOL

And I’ve had several friends who went to university, studied math, and then came to study language and literature with me, and they were great students because, according to them, both subjects (math/languages) had a lot of similarities and since their knowledge of math was great, it really helped them write better LOL I don’t see the connexion, maybe I’m just too stupid, but really, math did make them better students of languages and literature…amazing. Anyway, I’ve always loved and was good at learning new languages, whereas numbers…geez…and when Physics came, it became even worse 😛 Thank YOU for writing this article, I loved it!

I think one of the reasons math is so hard is we only learn it by rote memorization in school. We don’t learn why it’s useful, what it’s used for, what it can be used for, how we got to that particular formula, etc. We just learn formulas, which is very boring.

Agreed! I spent many classes doodling because I was so bored and confused. I don’t think that rote learning is always bad. Sometimes that’s the only way to learn the basics. But rote learning never worked for me in advanced math – unless you count memorizing the answer keys. Thanks for commenting Loren!

Math was one of those things I excelled at during my early school years and the credit goes to my Mum. As soon as we were old enough, Mum had us reciting the times tables. She had written them up on big sheets of cardboard in lots of colours. Interestingly, I always had particular problems with some of the tables. So it was not a magic bullet. However, it made math more accessible in the classroom. It did not feel so alien. It was normal, natural, second nature because it had been first presented in a warm and safe environment. At 50+, I remember very little of the algebra and logs, and reach for the calculator at times when my Mum wouldn’t, but I cherish my time in the math classroom and have my Mum to thank for that.

Hi Cherrie! That’s so awesome that your mom made math less scary at home. It makes sense right? We’re always encouraged to read with kids so why not do math with them too? I always, always reach for the calculator even when I know the answer- because I need reassurance that it’s right. I’m always in awe when my father can calculate a restaurant bill right down the cent before the bill arrives – without using a calculator! Thanks for sharing.

My parents were the same way about math–they always told me I never gave it a chance (and they are not Asian). Both of them are pretty good and my sister never seemed to struggled with it. They paid for tutors and I went to extra help. I do admit a lot had to do with my attitude. Once I understood how to do it, I was fine. The only problem was getting me to understand. There was some kind of mental block in my brain and it sometimes could take me weeks to understand a concept but I did sometime get an Aha moment. Or not so much an aha moment, but I just memorized how to solve the equation without really understanding what I was doing!

I probably would have benefited from Kumon had my parents known what it was when I was younger. My cousin who is in middle school has been going since elementary school and she hates it. But I’ve seen how their method works–it’s all about repetition. You do the same math equation about 20 times until it’s drilled into your head.

I know what you mean by that “aha” moment, it just took so long to get there that I found myself giving up and saying “I’m just bad at this”. Kumon was painful though. Effective but PAINFUL. Thanks for reading!

I have a morbid fear of Maths and my mom is a retired Math teacher. I just think in letters not numbers…it’s sad but true! It’s a blessing my hubby is a pro at it!

Glad you can relate! I let my bf do most of the calculating too. Thanks for reading.

A very nice post indeed. Frankly, I am one of the individuals who actually love math with a passion. It’s beautiful in my eyes. But while growing up in a Canada, I have encountered quite a few high school English teachers who even preached that calculus was useless and not applicable to everyday life.

Hi! Thanks for visiting. I’m in Canada too! While none of my English teachers ever said Calc was useless, they certainly thought literature was far more interesting. Alas, that’s why they are English teachers. I once heard that Canada has the most English PhD’s per capita than any other country 😮

Good point! My teachers have always, always started out the school year’s math class with something along the lines of “I know you guys hate math”, or “Math is scary but…”.

Thanks for visiting Jane! It’s funny how much we stress that math is hard when there are plenty of other hard subjects in school. Poetry can be very difficult but they don’t bother to warn you.

The lolsotrue made me smile. I always had terrible experiences in math. In high school I would earn straight A’s across the board and get a C in math–and boy was I satisfied with that. I used to think that there were “math minded” folks out there and the not so math minded folks like myself. But I always excelled in the liberal arts (: Nice post. Thanks for shedding light on the other side of the argument.

Hi! Thanks for visiting. I was in the same boat as you – great marks in everything but math. Maybe some people “get” math faster but I think a lot of that has to do with confidence. The people that learned fast didn’t panic like I did and shrugged their shoulders when they got answers wrong.

“…Moreover, algebra is not really required for most jobs or liberal arts studies….”

The mathematics is used to develop logical reasoning. there is some human being who does not use the reasoning in their daily living activities? The answer is no, all the world need reasoning logic in your jobs.

I share the author’s opinion, in change the position negative on the subject of math.

blessings

I never thought of it like that! If anything, I’ve learned from these comments that math plays a much larger role in our lives than many of us think. People who work with math every day know this. Thanks for sharing!

“…Moreover, algebra is not really required for most jobs or liberal arts studies….”

The mathematics is used to develop logical reasoning. there is some human being who does not use the reasoning in their daily living activities? The answer is no, all the world need reasoning logic in your jobs.

I share the author’s opinion, in change the position negative on the subject of math.

blessings

i’ve had a palatable fear of math since i was a kid. early on, i came to realize that math is a venal sin.

Hi John. Believe you me, I spent many night cursing math hoping it would die! That’s why I went into a field that requires mostly writing. And when I have to do math, I silently curse and make massive spreadsheets in Excel to compensate for lack of math skills. Thanks for visiting.

Reblogged this on pajcaigaius.

I am definitely one of those Americans who fear math — and never thought I’d pass it. As an adult going back to school, I had to take it to complete my bachelor’s degree, and believe it or not, my son tutored me and I got it. I’ll never be a mathematician — I’ll leave that to the boy — but once it clicks you feel silly because it does seem so easy.

Hi Jane! Your son tutored you in math?! That’s amazing. Congrats on going back to school and getting your degree. You’re practically fearless 😉

As a math lover, I am so glad to see you this! I’m an engineer/mathematician/artist, and I think that math and jobs or arts can (and should) go hand in hand. It took me a very long time to learn to “think” in math, but part of my problem was that I was taught that it was too difficult for me…. and I meet so many people who say “I’m terrible at math,” but they aren’t — they’ve just always been told that it’s scary. Thank you for posting!

Hi! There’s definitely a lot of benefit to those who can think mathematically and artistically. In fact, we need lots and LOTS more of those people. Let’s take down the myth of math 😉 Thanks for sharing.

Wow, what a shame : (

I love math! ❤

You should see me when people ask for my help, they don't even try, just expect you to give them all the answers. You're right. A lot of people fear math and won't even give it time. I think it's extremely important.

Hi Red! Thanks for reading. I’m not sure if I’d ever be able to love math. What’s your secret?

Well one motivator is how people look at you when you figure out a semi-difficult problem, it’s like you just did a magic trick!

But I think I was born loving numbers.

I got a great giggle from this post. Boy, can I relate! The teacher can make all of the difference. Katkasia makes a great point. I had the same problem with subtraction. I spelled it out in my New Year’s post at http://wp.me/p1X7Oe-8T. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.

Being held up to ridicule in front of the entire class by the ladies of religious pursuasion wearing habits got me off to a very poor mathematical start. I have always preferred to sit at table with words rather than numbers. But I have come to appreciate the “black and whiteness” of numbers and want to at least have coffee with them, if not a formal dinner. Khan Academy has videos beginning with very basic mathematical concepts which I’m going to dabble in.

Is Khan Academy on YouTube? I was always terrified of putting up my hand and asking for help in class. I can only imagine in a classroom full of strict nuns! Thanks for reading Linda.

http://www.khanacademy.org

I’ve wondered at times why nuns were teachers, when they had made the conscious decision to not have kids.

Hahaa that is so true, congrats on a really great post, and the freshly pressed! I love the pics you’ve used as well!

Hi Becky! Glad you enjoyed the post. I looked up “math” on Pinterest and immediate found image after image about being confused by math – then I realized I was probably onto something!

Go Math!

Go Karen! Thanks for visiting!

this arter of arts.., sob

Aw! Thanks for visiting!

math is the language of science and computing. Our society has never been MORE fluent in math than today. I must respectfully disagree with the writer.

I would assert that computing has replaced the need in our minds to approach math. We fear, therefore we get a machine to do the work. Math is, most certainly, more and more affluent in our society as it grows technologically. [Typical American] People, on the other hand, are less and less inclined toward it.

Asimov once wrote a short story along these lines of thought. I forget what it was called, now, but essentially computers and AI had totally taken over data management, and everyone had become math-illiterate. The big joke emerged when a lowly clerk one day discovered that he could replicate some of the computers’ functions on paper with numbers, and so math was re-developed as a way of taking back power.

Of course the story was pure sci fi, but the joke was a poignant one. Should we relingquish our ability to compute to the computer, we will lose an essential means of insight into our universe. Some of the greatest scientific discoveries have been made by folks drudging through the bowels of good ol’ fashioned arithmetic.

This is an interesting topic – does technology bring us further or closer to using math? I rely heavily on spreadsheets to do most of my calculations at work. Did we create technology because we know people want to avoid doing math? Or did people start avoiding math because they have the technology? Thanks for reading!

I hate math with a passion 😦

I know the feeling! But maybe if you convince yourself that you like it just a little bit? I’m going to try it too. Thanks for reading.

A very nice post

Aw shucks! Thanks for reading.

Math is elegant, beautiful, mysterious, immutable. Also one of those need-to-know-but-would-rather-avoid things.

I love that – especially mysterious and immutable. Never thought of it like that. Thanks for reading.

Oh, my God, Algebra made me hate higher math! Freshman year in high school, Algebra, frustration, and tears. Followed by Geometry, also frustrating. Then there was Trigonometry, I was sooo lost in that class, and finally College Algebra. I mean, if high school Algebra was hard, what made them think College level would be any easier??? Then I got to University and because I thought I wanted to be an architect I had to take Calculus. That class actually made me quit wanting to be an architect because I was so lost in that class that I figured I wouldn’t be able to be an architect if I didn’t know Calculus. So I became a designer instead.

Oh, yeah, and I still fear math.

Hi! Thanks for reading. I’m so glad I’m not alone on this. I always loathed geometry the most but I’ve actually gotten a little better with calculations now that I’m out of school. I think the pressure is gone so it’s a little easier to focus on the problem at hand.

I have always loved math and was rather good at it. It was one subject where you needn’t memorize once you get the concept. I have tried teaching a few friends, and once they get the trick, they state: “Oh, I never knew it was this simple!”

Hi! I wish I had a friend like you. I think most of my friends were as confused as me. Thanks for reading.

Very good points. Fortunately, I’m one of the few in this world who’s actually good at math and am currently doing graduate studies in it. I actually have goal to write novels about math. I’m expecting it to be a difficult challenge for the reasons you have of people not liking math simply because they fear it. Who knows? Maybe I’ll increase the public’s understanding of the subject.

Please do write a novel about it! I would read it. It could help a lot of people see math in a whole different light – and realize how useful it is.

I’m fine with words, but whenever numbers enter the equation (ha!) I am a mess!

Thanks for this blog post, it’s put it in a whole new perspective. I just might head back to the virtual classroom and see if I can finally get my head around… well, basic Math would be a start!

Hi! Thanks for sharing and reading. Best of luck in the virtual classroom! I hear there are some really good YouTube videos that teach basic and advanced math.

clap, clap for unveiling a new face of math for all the math-phobics (like me)! 🙂

Aw! Thanks for reading!

Reblogged this on La Lunatica and commented:

I see you got a point there! 🙂

I love words but have always feared math. The only time I like numbers are when they pertain to my bank, retirement or investment accounts 🙂

Thanks for reading! I like watching those numbers grow too…

A healthy fear of something is good. You learn to respect what you fear. But I think we’re seeing unhealthy fear here. It keeps people from learning something so important to reasoning and logic skills because it’s ‘too hard.’ And then we have people like Andrew Hacker reinforcing that belief.

I’m afraid of what the future holds for a country such as ours where everyone looks to take the easy path, no matter the consequences.

Thanks for sharing! I agree. What else should we stop teaching in the name of “it’s too hard”? I guess my problem is that my fear of math is pretty irrational. Nothing really happens if I get the answers wrong but I still get overwhelmed.

As an adult educator, it is great to see this post. Having a foundation in math skills can be very helpful in building other skill sets. The logic needed for math can quickly be adapted for other subjects that need logic to learn. Plus, it helps you better understand music.

Thanks for sharing! You mention some really good reasons to keep advanced math even for those heading into the arts.

I like this post very much. It’s real and a lot of us can relate. =>

I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for reading.

Maybe schools should not teach “in-depth” maths in the main common stream of classes. They could teach a lot of the basic stuff (including algebra), and then leave the heavy maths for the specialist streams such as engineering and science.

Thanks for reading! I’m not sure where educators draw the line between basic and advanced math. But I think overeducating kids in math wouldn’t be a bad thing – for one, it gives them a chance to become engineers and mathematicians later in life. The love of math could start later with the help of a great teacher.

Too many numbers….

So little time!

I vividly remember the hype that was created during my first algebra lesson in School. Thanks to a couple of wonderful teachers, it was toned down a little and we were actually able to do fairly okay. Great post 🙂 brought back some memories 🙂

Thanks for sharing. Yes, I remember how scary that “x” was too. Where’s the number?! What do you mean it’s a VARIABLE? I remember math class to be incredibly chaotic.

The problem is that they dumb down math at the early stages of learning. Even little kids have good brains in their heads and should not be forced to finger count just to prove they’ve learned the lesson. If they want to go ahead and work out the problems on a piece of paper or in their heads that should be more than fine with their teachers. Is it just me or was anyone else out there taught by a consecutive string of incompetent elementry school teachers?

Hi Jenny! My math teachers were always overwhelmed. 30 students + 1 teacher = mass confusion. Kids are also smart enough to know when the teacher isn’t comfortable teaching.

Great post! As a high school science teacher, doing chemistry equations is the hardest part for kids. They are so weak algebraically that we spend days working problems instead of tackling concepts. “Numbers are funny when it does not equal money.” That is what my kids say. smh

I salute your post!

Hi Bisi! Thanks for sharing. I salute you for teaching science! That’s tough work when you have to help a classroom full of kids who are different comfort levels with math and science. It’s so funny that the kids say that – I guess money is more applicable to every day life. My dad spent hours teaching me negative numbers. He kept saying “If I lent you $5 and you owed me 5 dollars – how much money would you have?”. I was POSITIVE that I had $5.

Thanks. Lots of people should read this. But I don’t want to count them.

Lols! Thanks for reading.

Reblogged this on Things I grab, motley collection and commented:

I feared Math

Math is like my enemy. Or so I think. Until I decided to face it one year and then all was fine. It just takes extra effort, really. Now I’m back to ignoring it, and it’s my biggest enemy once again.

Sometimes its genetics. My 3 children are very good at math, right up into the mind numbing world of trigonometry. They get that from their mother. I did get one equation right — 1 + 1 = 5, family wise. And while raising our offsprings we met some great teachers along the way.

Great Article! I like to think I think like you.

Thanks! Just don’t think like me when it comes to algebra and you’ll be just fine 🙂

When you add up all the factors in this post, it equals WOW! Thank you.

Thanks Paul! I really appreciate it.

Like your article, it’s so true. What I’ve noticed being a private tutor in mathematics for over 5 years now, is that it is not only fear of math because it is ‘known’ to be difficult, but also the lack of application of math in daily life. Yes, it is true that in many jobs you don’t need algebra, but in many others you do, or just one part of mathematics, like equations or geometry. I think that if you can show pupils/students what to use math for, they will understand better the abstract systems behind it. Well, that is how it works for me, as I know math students who are fearsome of mathematical applications because it ruins maths beauty…

Hi! Thanks for sharing. It wasn’t until I wrote this post that people started telling me that math is beautiful. I’d love to see a blog post on the beauty of math to counter my “fear of math”. What examples do you give your students on the applications of math?

Reblogged this on AH..

I enjoyed reading this, as an adult looking back I wish I had been more encouraged to learn math, and to enjoy it as much as the liberal arts classes. It was always made to seem difficult and for a certain type of person, I’d love to relearn what I knew then and see how much more sense it makes to my open, not afraid, mind.

Oh I’d love to go back to my early days in school so I could tell myself what would actually be important down the road. Things like “math isn’t actually scary” and “fitting is overrated”. Thanks for reading!

You know everyone always automatically assume I am some Math whiz because I am Chinese. I SO no not fall in that category. I am terrible at Math. Not because I fear it. Because I am just plain bad with numbers.

Hi! I’m Chinese too and my whole family is in computer programming 😮 I wonder if it’s intimidating knowing that expectations are so high? Thanks for reading.

Reblogged this on Sig_Int SitRep and commented:

I agree with that. Now it is necessary for everybody who loves science (not just maths, but also physics and history), to inpire others, so they might inspire others…one way to do this are the great videos of Youtube’s “VSauce” or “Veritasium”…

Thanks for reading! I’ll have to check out those videos.

Reblogged this on REESA and commented:

HAHA everyday we wonder why we’re studying in Asia…

While that was very funny – the point is serious and very true. I still fear maths and at 23 don’t know all my multiplication tables. Shocking, isn’t it. I loved the last day of high school when I knew I’d never, ever have to have another maths lesson again. I so also have anxiety issues, and the fear of failing was doubled as I thought I would get flayed every time I answered a question wrong. The fear is rooted in us – I’d never quite realised before, but this post really showed that!

Hi! I’m glad you could relate and from what I’ve heard, we’re not the only ones who fear math! I use to psych myself out and just give up. Math is probably one of the only things that makes me feel truly anxious. That, and spiders.

Wow loved this. Especially all those side photos. I laughed too hard in the office :

1- My homework brings all the Asians in the yard and they’re like it wasn’t that hard.

2- If it seems easy you’re probably doing it wrong.

Who ever came up with those are hilarious!

MontrealDSL

Business Blog

I keeled over laughing when I saw those images too – especially the first one. The author’s twitter feed is absolutely HILARIOUS. Glad you enjoyed them Katie and thanks for stopping by.

I love this, it’s a very real problem. I’ve stuck with maths until the near end (my relationship with math finished very abruptly just before university started) but it is so much simpler to understand once you stop fearing it.

No, actually, maybe that’s a lie. It still terrifies me. Maybe in a different way…

Hi Ginger! I ended my math saga after high school too and now I rely on Excel spreadsheets to do all my calculations and counting. It’s a cop out. Thanks for reading and I’m glad you could relate.

“We are told that math is the sport of geniuses and the rest of us mere mortals should be very afraid.” So true, and not just in America (I’m French)! Actually, I think it’s also a case of “You should just “get” it. If you don’t, then don’t bother, you never will”. Not the most motivational approach to teaching!

I had a love-hate relationship with maths at school – loving the idea of them as a way to shape logical reasoning (hence I definitely think it is still needed) but hating the fact that I struggled so much to get it, even though I could show logical thinking in other areas. In the end I had to learn to compensate with other subjects to get through my academic years but I now regret not sticking with it.

Hi Ombeline. Interesting to hear that it’s problem around the world. And I think you’re right – we automatically assign ourselves to camps of “good at math” and “dismal at math”. I mean, is there no middle ground? Thanks for sharing.

As a former math teacher, I can’t tell you how many times a parent would tell me, well, I just can’t do math so I don’t expect my kid to be able to do it either. I wanted to smack them every time they said it – talk about a self fulfilling prophesy! If people would just get out of their heads and believe that they could do things, this country would be a lot better off!

Hi Julie! You should smack them. Just kidding. But I can imagine that being incredibly frustrating as a teacher and just imagine what that does to the kids? No one wants to be predestined for failure.

The only problem is that taking students who excel in everything else, and then making them take math courses to get into liberal arts degree is just a frustrating process. Why I was forced to retake math (after get a 52 the first time) to get into a liberal arts program when I didn’t have a single other mark below 85 is beyond me. Some kids suck at math. why do they have to suffer through it to do degrees that don’t use it (or not go to university and do a trade, arts school, culinary school or other options that are society seems to frown upon)?

Math is important to an extent but beyond basics there are a lot of skills I was taught that I will never use (if I understood them in the first place). Why do I need to do trigonometry or long division? How are these things useful?

“But kids who can’t swim are at the highest risk for drowning.” Only if there’s water nearby! I’ve got dyscalculia so I stay away from Maths! (The ‘s’ is there ‘cos I’m in the UK, by the way). 😉

Math chicks are Hott!!

Ha ha, so true in every way!

Sometimes it’s not really a fear of numbers — like letters, numbers are neutral — but rather a fear of embarrassment when instead of proving the sum or difference, you prove yourself an idiot (demonstrating a weakness) in front of your classmates and others you respect and/or are trying to impress. I’ve found it’s easier to learn math when you find real world applications, like knowing whether to buy 1 litre of milk or 500 mL at a given price. Numbers factored in with other logic can produce wiser decisions. Parents can give such math lessons without the label when they take their kids grocery shopping with them. It might improve the outcomes from a simple, everyday exercise.

Thanks for discussing this “fear of math,” Farah. 🙂

All the best to you!//mm

LOVE this post! So true. I had a mental block against math for the longest time till I got an amazing teacher. Changed my life for sure.

PS Math is not even used in medical school. So seriously, what was all that pain for?

You may have inspired a blogpost in me.

great blog topic! inspirational without it being in your face :o)

I agree.My sister was terrified enough of Math and oven refused to face anyone before or after Math exams until we found a friend’s brother who mentored her really well.Thankfully she is a primary school teacher now.

I also hated math, but am not bad with physics. guess I have to see a purpose clearly and have competent teachers. my SAT score shows this: 760 verbal / 490 math….oy.

I’ve always found that maths is definitely down to the teacher! My grades of maths certainly reflected the level of teaching, in the sense that my best teachers made it seem easy and vice versa! I also think it’s important to do maths, even if you’re studying liberal arts, oersonally I think that it gives an important contrast and balance!

This is true, I grew up thinking I would never be good at math, but in college I realized it’s not that hard thanks to a great teacher I had.

VERY TRUE!

Lol those pics are so funny but really are a testament to how math-adverse we are. I dropped out of calculus in high school and so began the deterioration of the math skills i did have. You’re right, at some point you need those skills and by then its too late and youve declared yourself “not a math person.” great post!

Maths is the only subject where you can score 100/100 . I love it, puzzle and fun

Great post. You are absolutely correct in that we parents teach our kids the fear of math. After that, peer pressure takes over. I’m an engineer and we had to have a minor in math before graduating. I discovered that several years ago my school dropped that requirement– “by popular demand”. This was defiitely the wrong decision, in my opinion. Several comments were made relative to having teachers that made the subject understandable. I agree completely. A great math teacher makes all the difference in the world. I was very fortunate in high school to have teachers such as this. One of my favorites, Ms. Ware, always said the best mathematacians carried large erasers and they were never correct the first time about any calculation. She also mentioned that math students were absolutely fearless. ( We all loved that statement. ). Again–great post.

Reblogged this on Fiore Rougee comentado:

Este artigo fez com que eu me sentisse melhor sobre meu medo e asco à matemática…admiro muito quem gosta e se dá bem com números!

Tenho a certeza que sabes subtrair dois números com extrema facilidade quando estão euros envolvidos. Além disso, acredito veemente que saibas como dividir uma tablete rectangular de chocolate em duas ou mais partes iguais, bem como um bolo redondo. Se for um pouco mais longe, sabes determinar o preço de vários objectos (adição), determinar o preço de muitos objectos iguais (multiplicação) e até mesmo calcular preços unitários para os poderes comparar. Se pensares melhor, talvez nem te dês mal com números nem quiçá com conceitos geométricos.

I thought that I would mention someone who really made me see that math could be very entertaining, even though I did not see it that way as a youngster. I bought a calendar about math by Theoni Pappas. I think that is how she spells her name. Then I learned that there was a children’s math calendar and a number of books written by the same woman so I got some of those too. Then I wrote a letter to her because she was a professor at Stanford University while I lived about 30 miles away in San Francisco,, and she wrote back. Seeing that such a “normal person” could like math and excell at it really helped me to think that I was capable of learning more than I had so I practiced with a book called “Mathematics Made Simple” and learned so much more in a few weeks that I would have ever thought possible

The way that spiders spin their webs is mathematical. Music is mathematical. Those optical illusions that most of us see different things in are mathematical. I had always thought of math as long equations that led to no where but another long equation after I had finished.

I have also tried without success to find a book called “The Story of Pi” because it is a children’s book about math and a dragon so it sounded like it would probably be charming.

I think that although there are some people that really loves mathematics, the “horror mathematicae” is a generalized feeling all over the world. There are more people that are afraid of it then that loves it even in countries with a strong mathematical tradition like France and Germany.

I made a little research to find some opinions about mathematics from the extinct Soviet Union (the place of the last school) and it came up with an interesting russian article: http://elib.mi.sanu.ac.rs/files/journals/tm/9/tm522.pdf – may be it is a start to comprehend some possible causes to the “horror mathematicae”.

this is so true. I love maths now, but i always used to hate it- my teacher and i did not get on so i didnt like doing the work with her. How ever, both my parents are logical, mathematical, and they got me into enjoying it.

unfortunatly, i think my teacher wished i hated it still, as I got so good at equations and algebra that i would correct her if she was wrong!

i agree with this on certain levels but i am genuinely so terrible at math…nothing will ever make it easier. i flunked grade 11 math, re-took remedial math with a tutor and failed that too (my teacher pity passed me with a 50). i struggle with simple addition. i can’t long divide. i’m not even ashamed of it. i just can’t. and i totally tried!! maybe, like the person above me suggested, i understand a different type of math?

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I took A-Level math, apparently the hardest A-Level to take and do well in. I’ll admit it was hard, really really flipping tough at times. It did click though eventually, it literally took practice and patience. You learn and remember a formula, you apply that formula to a bunch of numbers and, hopefully, get the answer that works when you put it back in. It’s wonderful!

My other three subjects were all essay subjects- all based on your own opinion and how you formed an argument. They were much more stressful, and certainly much more work than the maths exam ever was.

What an interesting read! I actually love math a lot (and if I could survive off a teacher’s pay would glady teach high school math for the rest of my life) but agree that we are just kind of raised in the US to absolutely dread it. I’ve made that argument before, but being adopted from Korea, people usually say it is just “in my genes” when really I agree with you that in Asia they are just raised to embrace math like any other subject, kind of like how people are raised to embrace sports participation, etc. But seriously – some of that shit we learn is NOT NECESSARY. 🙂 Thanks for the read, and congrats on being FP!

Such an interesting post, but as you wrote this,

“The author cites that failing algebra is a large reason why many students drop out of high school and post-secondary school. Moreover, algebra is not really required for most jobs or liberal arts studies.

This is the wrong idea.”

With all respect, I need to totally disagree with you on that with (of course) a consequential explanation.

I live and got an education in Asia, and yes, math is one of the main subjects (along with physics, chemistry, biology, 3 foreign languages which are English, Mandarin, and Japanese, and etc) I need to deal with to be able to go to college. And guess what, yes, math is useful (the basic calculation parts: percentage, multiplication, etc) but algebra is not, I mean it is not supposed to be essential unless you’re about to become an engineer or so. As the matter, I must clarify first that by saying math, I mean math without algebra, and by saying algebra, it is algebra (well, I think they’re should be separated subjects anyway).

Because, seriously, now I’m graduated from college and happily working ever after and I’ve never met and definitely will never meet an event when or-and where I should use the algebra to use it for any possible reasons and I’m doing very well without it. Furthermore, I still remember one of my friends who wanted to take an English major in college didn’t get the chance since he failed in math (and by math I mean algebra), pretty sad, isn’t it?

Here’s my opinion, I think people are born with different ‘talents’, some are strong in linguistics, some are in statistics, and so on. But, don’t you think it’s sad if those people who’re good in linguistics are considered ‘not elligible’ to take higher education because they failed at what’s not in their DNA (and vice versa)? How does it sound when someone says that a fish is stupid because it can’t fly like a bird?

And please don’t compare learning algebra to learning second language. That, will make me have to go back to my argument about people who are born with linguistics talent, and so on and so on…

Regards. 😀

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Good article! Out of all the subjects, I took to Math the easiest. Thanks for sharing

Lucky! Thanks for visiting!

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True talk, the thing is, teachers and parents are one of the big problems, they rank math more than other subjects, and children gets scared… Well..Zebravillaworks had started doing something to fix this problem.