### I'm bad at maths. Any ideas why?

Posted:

**Tue Jan 19, 2010 3:08 am UTC**I truly hate maths. I like statistics, but other forms of mathematics just go right over my head. I hate Algebra II.

Help me, please?

Help me, please?

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Posted: **Tue Jan 19, 2010 3:08 am UTC**

I truly hate maths. I like statistics, but other forms of mathematics just go right over my head. I hate Algebra II.

Help me, please?

Help me, please?

Posted: **Tue Jan 19, 2010 3:10 am UTC**

I bet you just don't like the way people have tried to teach you.

What do you like to do with statistics?

What do you like to do with statistics?

Posted: **Tue Jan 19, 2010 3:44 am UTC**

The beginning of math mostly sucks. It gets cool at calculus and beyond.

Posted: **Tue Jan 19, 2010 3:46 am UTC**

What exactly do you mean by bad at maths? I am a tutor at my school, and there are two types of people who are having problems with math. The most common group is one that just isn't that interested in the subject, and have a hard time focusing on it. The best way to help them is to find things in math that are interesting. If that is what it is like for you, try looking for interesting math topics. If you have ever seen the TV show Numb3rs, where the FBI uses math to solve crimes, there is a great website that looks into the math in different episodes.

Posted: **Tue Jan 19, 2010 3:49 am UTC**

I like math, but I'm terrible at it as well. I was always terrible in precalculus, which I took both in HS and college, and got about the same grade for covering about the same material. I don't know if it was the teacher or the subject matter.

Posted: **Tue Jan 19, 2010 4:01 am UTC**

MONEY

Joking. Erm, I don't know. I sort of like the social aspect to it, or the fact that I can see CLEARLY how I could apply this to every day life. Honestly, I see no use for matrices, so I figure: why bother learning it?

Joking. Erm, I don't know. I sort of like the social aspect to it, or the fact that I can see CLEARLY how I could apply this to every day life. Honestly, I see no use for matrices, so I figure: why bother learning it?

Posted: **Tue Jan 19, 2010 4:04 am UTC**

So it isn't that you can't grasp the concepts, you just aren't interested in them. There is nothing really wrong with that, but finding cool applications of math can help.

Posted: **Tue Jan 19, 2010 4:06 am UTC**

I just really WISH I could be interested. All the stuff you see about mathematics looks pretty interesting; my main interest would be in Physics, but that's highly math based. *sighs*

Posted: **Tue Jan 19, 2010 4:10 am UTC**

So get a physics book. When you see a new math concept presented, look online to learn more about it. If you really like physics, that will make learning math much easier. For your statement earlier about matrices, in physics, they are rather useful. You can use them to look at vectors. Physics is a great thing to use to learn more about math. That is actually what sparked my interest.

Posted: **Tue Jan 19, 2010 4:15 am UTC**

I was going to buy one at the bookstore!

But then I realised I forgot my money at home. Would you recommend taking Physics in school?

But then I realised I forgot my money at home. Would you recommend taking Physics in school?

Posted: **Tue Jan 19, 2010 4:58 am UTC**

I would advise that you take anything in school that you have time for, are interested in, and don't feel like you could easily read through yourself!

As far as buying a book at the bookstore, be careful what you pick up! I've found that my local bookstore carries a large selection of "dummies" guides and simple intro books to students looking to pass high-school level physics classes, and then, sitting at the other end of the physics difficulty spectrum, are a bunch of books that will not be friendly to anyone but a well-prepared undergraduate. So, be careful about what you pick up. I own Feyman's Lectures, and those seem to be a very nice introduction to physics that asks only for light mathematics. The problem is that they're rather expensive and the set comes bound up so you can't flip through the first book for testing the waters.

EDIT: One more thing. I'll leave hard examples to the guys on here who know more about it, but I have a feeling that lots, lots, lots of mathematics sprung directly out of a desire to properly systematize and symbolize the thoughts of physicists.

As far as buying a book at the bookstore, be careful what you pick up! I've found that my local bookstore carries a large selection of "dummies" guides and simple intro books to students looking to pass high-school level physics classes, and then, sitting at the other end of the physics difficulty spectrum, are a bunch of books that will not be friendly to anyone but a well-prepared undergraduate. So, be careful about what you pick up. I own Feyman's Lectures, and those seem to be a very nice introduction to physics that asks only for light mathematics. The problem is that they're rather expensive and the set comes bound up so you can't flip through the first book for testing the waters.

EDIT: One more thing. I'll leave hard examples to the guys on here who know more about it, but I have a feeling that lots, lots, lots of mathematics sprung directly out of a desire to properly systematize and symbolize the thoughts of physicists.

Posted: **Tue Jan 19, 2010 5:56 am UTC**

My elementary school had a policy against rote learning which extended into mathematics. That meant that instead of learning set algorithms for doing arithmetic, you were supposed to figure out your own, unique approach. This laughable tactic led me to believe that I was more of a humanities person--until high school chemistry, and my first love, the Ideal Gas Law.

It's true, you can choose an adequate path through life (lawyer, doctor, etc) which does not involve matrices. It also won't involve understanding how the universe works on a fundamental level. Everything in math is useful--one might say that, like Native Americans hunting bison, we let nothing go to waste.

I see no use for matrices, so I figure: why bother learning it?

It's true, you can choose an adequate path through life (lawyer, doctor, etc) which does not involve matrices. It also won't involve understanding how the universe works on a fundamental level. Everything in math is useful--one might say that, like Native Americans hunting bison, we let nothing go to waste.

Posted: **Tue Jan 19, 2010 8:22 am UTC**

I must admit however, matrices are pretty tedious. Until, I guess, you get to the point where its properties are what is interesting, and not the actual multiplication of them. Because matrices has some decent properties.

Posted: **Tue Jan 19, 2010 10:31 am UTC**

Not liking maths because you find matrices boring is like not liking carpentry because you think hammers are boring. Hammers are fairly boring, it's what you can do with hammers that is interesting. And even then, to build interesting things, you need a lot more complicated tools than hammers.

Posted: **Tue Jan 19, 2010 10:39 am UTC**

DavCrav wrote:Not liking maths because you find matrices boring is like not liking carpentry because you think hammers are boring. Hammers are fairly boring, it's what you can do with hammers that is interesting. And even then, to build interesting things, you need a lot more complicated tools than hammers.

That was so poetic. Like, seriously, I'm going to throw it into conversation whenever possible (and say that it's quoted from this guy called DavCrav).

Posted: **Tue Jan 19, 2010 10:48 am UTC**

Phoenix112358 wrote:DavCrav wrote:Not liking maths because you find matrices boring is like not liking carpentry because you think hammers are boring. Hammers are fairly boring, it's what you can do with hammers that is interesting. And even then, to build interesting things, you need a lot more complicated tools than hammers.

That was so poetic. Like, seriously, I'm going to throw it into conversation whenever possible (and say that it's quoted from this guy called DavCrav).

A little bit of light Googling can find out my real name from DavCrav... Being a mathematician means your name gets plastered over the Internets.

Posted: **Tue Jan 19, 2010 5:18 pm UTC**

I love certain aspects of this approach, but hate the others aspects. If you don't explore the approaches yourself, you will never know why the standard algorithms work. On the other hand, you need to learn the standard algorithm afterward, since it is the quick, reliable method that withstood the test of time. (Unless your school is teaching Karatsuba multiplication......)Comic JK wrote:My elementary school had a policy against rote learning which extended into mathematics. That meant that instead of learning set algorithms for doing arithmetic, you were supposed to figure out your own, unique approach. This laughable tactic led me to believe that I was more of a humanities person--until high school chemistry, and my first love, the Ideal Gas Law.

As for matrices, I hate them, especially grading them.

Posted: **Tue Jan 19, 2010 7:51 pm UTC**

So, how are you bad at mathematics?

Do you just hate it? Do you hate it so you don't try to learn it? Is it that you find it hard, and insufficiently rewarding?

Give us concrete examples of problems which you hate trying. Are there any problems that you don't mind solving?

"Algebra II" -- you are aware that the world doesn't use the same curriculum as your school does, right? And that Algebra II could cover anything from basic high school polynomial toys, through a course on linear algebra at a community college for biology students, through to a course for pure math graduate students at Berkley?

Pass on more information about what you hate. Pass on information about what you like. Pass on information about what you are indifferent about.

As for matrices -- it isn't useful for doing math at a cash register. Most applied math beyond a cash register will be using matrices. Heck -- back in the 90s, the reason why google's search engine didn't utterly suck (you have no idea how bad search engines where before google) was because of an innovation in matrix multiplication! (no, I'm not kidding). Now everyone uses similar techniques (and probably uses math from the same paper/researcher that google got their matrix multiplication from)

Do you just hate it? Do you hate it so you don't try to learn it? Is it that you find it hard, and insufficiently rewarding?

Give us concrete examples of problems which you hate trying. Are there any problems that you don't mind solving?

"Algebra II" -- you are aware that the world doesn't use the same curriculum as your school does, right? And that Algebra II could cover anything from basic high school polynomial toys, through a course on linear algebra at a community college for biology students, through to a course for pure math graduate students at Berkley?

Pass on more information about what you hate. Pass on information about what you like. Pass on information about what you are indifferent about.

As for matrices -- it isn't useful for doing math at a cash register. Most applied math beyond a cash register will be using matrices. Heck -- back in the 90s, the reason why google's search engine didn't utterly suck (you have no idea how bad search engines where before google) was because of an innovation in matrix multiplication! (no, I'm not kidding). Now everyone uses similar techniques (and probably uses math from the same paper/researcher that google got their matrix multiplication from)

Posted: **Wed Jan 20, 2010 12:19 am UTC**

This usually means the US high school "Algebra II", which should be somewhat standard. It's definitely not "Abstract Algebra II" with groups and what have you. Unfortunately, I am not from the US.Yakk wrote:"Algebra II" -- you are aware that the world doesn't use the same curriculum as your school does, right? And that Algebra II could cover anything from basic high school polynomial toys, through a course on linear algebra at a community college for biology students, through to a course for pure math graduate students at Berkley?

Posted: **Wed Jan 20, 2010 12:44 am UTC**

achan1058 wrote:This usually means the US high school "Algebra II", which should be somewhat standard. It's definitely not "Abstract Algebra II" with groups and what have you. Unfortunately, I am not from the US.Yakk wrote:"Algebra II" -- you are aware that the world doesn't use the same curriculum as your school does, right? And that Algebra II could cover anything from basic high school polynomial toys, through a course on linear algebra at a community college for biology students, through to a course for pure math graduate students at Berkley?

*nod*, American high school students are more likely to presume that they are the centre of the academic universe.

Posted: **Wed Jan 20, 2010 1:05 am UTC**

Actually, I just sort of thought Algebra II was standard throughout the world, the way my teachers talk about EVERYONE knowing everything in the book.

I see your points in the practical uses of Matrices.

The hardest problems I have in mathematics is when I take a test of some sort, feel really good about it, and then receive a paper with a big fat F on it, basically saying that I didn't study all the questions properly or skipped a step or mixed stuff together.

There really are no problems I DON'T like doing except finding rational zeros. I can't STAND it, mostly because it's so much work and concentration that I find it very difficult to focus on for long periods of time.

Which is, by the way, my main problem. I love English because you can just look at it and analyse it your own way and pull something together in an hour that looks absolutely fantastic, with some skill.

Mathematics is a SET answer: if you don't get that ONE answer out of the millions of ways that you could have gone wrong, you just don't get it. Everything is wrong from that point on.

I recently found out from my on-line Algebra teacher that I have been applying cross-multiplication wrong my entire life. Who knows what other mathematical rules I've been messing up with? There are so many rules that you must remember, and there is no Maths-Check like there is Spell-Check. Does anyone know any method to help me REMEMBER and commit to memory the theorums in mathematics?

Also, I actually at first LOVED doing matrices, until I got my first matrix test back completely failed because I didn't see the numbers properly and either missed the number that everything was multiplied with or saw a 0 and, in my mind, processed something like 9 or something.

I see your points in the practical uses of Matrices.

The hardest problems I have in mathematics is when I take a test of some sort, feel really good about it, and then receive a paper with a big fat F on it, basically saying that I didn't study all the questions properly or skipped a step or mixed stuff together.

There really are no problems I DON'T like doing except finding rational zeros. I can't STAND it, mostly because it's so much work and concentration that I find it very difficult to focus on for long periods of time.

Which is, by the way, my main problem. I love English because you can just look at it and analyse it your own way and pull something together in an hour that looks absolutely fantastic, with some skill.

Mathematics is a SET answer: if you don't get that ONE answer out of the millions of ways that you could have gone wrong, you just don't get it. Everything is wrong from that point on.

I recently found out from my on-line Algebra teacher that I have been applying cross-multiplication wrong my entire life. Who knows what other mathematical rules I've been messing up with? There are so many rules that you must remember, and there is no Maths-Check like there is Spell-Check. Does anyone know any method to help me REMEMBER and commit to memory the theorums in mathematics?

Also, I actually at first LOVED doing matrices, until I got my first matrix test back completely failed because I didn't see the numbers properly and either missed the number that everything was multiplied with or saw a 0 and, in my mind, processed something like 9 or something.

Posted: **Wed Jan 20, 2010 2:32 am UTC**

danniebenedi wrote: Does anyone know any method to help me REMEMBER and commit to memory the theorums in mathematics?

Doing problems until you stop making mistakes is the best way in my opinion. If you work at it you'll find yourself remembering more and more with each set.

Posted: **Wed Jan 20, 2010 3:09 am UTC**

Birk wrote:danniebenedi wrote: Does anyone know any method to help me REMEMBER and commit to memory the theorums in mathematics?

Doing problems until you stop making mistakes is the best way in my opinion. If you work at it you'll find yourself remembering more and more with each set.

Indeed. I have it on good authority (i.e., Chinese parents) that one surefire way for any reasonably intelligent student to be good at math is to practice. For example, after finishing an assigned problem set, you might find problems in your book that you can do. After that, look online for problems, then go to a local bookstore and maybe buy some math workbooks. And somewhere along the line, you'll finally feel like you've a good grasp of the topic.

Posted: **Wed Jan 20, 2010 8:12 am UTC**

danniebenedi wrote:mostly because it's so much work and concentration that I find it very difficult to focus on for long periods of time.

There's your problem. If it seems like alot of work, you aren't being creative or dedicated enough. Math requires that you sit down, shut up, pay attention, and actually think about what you are doing. Turn off the TV, the music, the computer, the cellphone, video-games, etc. and go to a quiet, empty room where you can do the math undisturbed. Do all the work in one sitting, don't let yourself do anything else until it is done. With practice, you will get better and you can return to possibly distracting situations because it won't matter at that point.

danniebenedi wrote:Mathematics is a SET answer: if you don't get that ONE answer out of the millions of ways that you could have gone wrong, you just don't get it. Everything is wrong from that point on.

This happens to everyone. We can all make stupid mistakes along the way that end up messing everything up. I have two suggestions; one, stop allowing yourself to be distracted, if you get distracted, you will certainly waste time and quite possibly screw up, two, stop doing calculations and start doing algebra. Resolve to minimize use of your calculator, the less you use your calculator, the less likely you are to miskey or misread. When you do calculate something, do it two or three times to confirm you didn't mess up.

danniebenedi wrote:Does anyone know any method to help me REMEMBER and commit to memory the theorums in mathematics?

Derive them yourself and apply them often and with much vigor. Practice. Learn how they tie in with things you already know.

danniebenedi wrote:I didn't see the numbers properly and either missed the number that everything was multiplied with or saw a 0 and, in my mind, processed something like 9 or something.

Double, triple, and quadruple check your work. Maybe you need glasses? Practice so you don't misread or misinterpret questions. Learn the right way to solve the problem, then learn the quick way, then the hard way, then derive your own way. Use them all to make sure you get the right answer.

Posted: **Wed Jan 20, 2010 2:02 pm UTC**

lu6cifer wrote:I have it on good authority (i.e., Chinese parents) that one surefire way for any reasonably intelligent student to be good at math is to practice.

Unfortunately this is the viewpoint of many people who start mathematics degrees. If you are reasonably intelligent and practise, then you can get very good at the (incredibly tedious) algorithms that comprise school mathematics. The first point at which you see this approach fail is in calculus, where you give this reasonably intellident, well-practised student a new integration to do. He will have no idea, and then you show him the method. You come back a week later, and he is extremely good at similar integrals; so you give him a different one, and he has no idea. Repeat.

What practice does is produce a very good robot. One of the problems with the (typically Chinese, with all due respect) new undergraduates is that all creativity has been drilled out of them. They are very impressive at calculating and computing with things they have seen before, but have no idea how to approach new problems, and this is what mathematics is really about, solving new problems. Once a problem has been solved, an algorithm produced, then the problem becomes an exercise for students, or something for engineers, computer scientists, physicists, etc., to play with.

Take calculus for example. Every mathematician learns it, but nobody researches calculus. Only one or two areas of pure mathematics use calculus, and then it is often p-adic integrals, analysis on manifolds, and so on. Something new and funky.

Posted: **Wed Jan 20, 2010 2:02 pm UTC**

That's your problem. You are remembering too many rules. Try remembering less (but make sure you remember the right ones), it WILL help a lot. I speak of this as a mathematician, and I am sure others will agree with me. For example, all these things about cross multiply and whatever are just special instances of the major rule "doing the same to both sides of an equation".danniebenedi wrote:I recently found out from my on-line Algebra teacher that I have been applying cross-multiplication wrong my entire life. Who knows what other mathematical rules I've been messing up with? There are so many rules that you must remember, and there is no Maths-Check like there is Spell-Check. Does anyone know any method to help me REMEMBER and commit to memory the theorums in mathematics?

You can still practice to be creative, you know, so I disagree with most of what you said. Of course, if your practice is limited to a small type of problems, it's your fault for practicing wrong, not the fault of practicing. Also, someone who is not familiar with the tools often cannot be creative even if they want to be. It's like trying to write a fancy piece of code knowing only the algorithm intuitively but not any programming language. Anyways, I hope you will agree with me that "one surefire way for any reasonably intelligent student to be good at math is hard work", though. Most people are not geniuses, not even most mathematicians. This common myth about random flashes of inspirations that comes from nowhere is really simply wrong. In particular, there are famous mathematicians that draws thousands of graphs just to attempt to get data for a theorem. (it was before the days of computers)DavCrav wrote:lu6cifer wrote:I have it on good authority (i.e., Chinese parents) that one surefire way for any reasonably intelligent student to be good at math is to practice.

Unfortunately this is the viewpoint of many people who start mathematics degrees. If you are reasonably intelligent and practise, then you can get very good at the (incredibly tedious) algorithms that comprise school mathematics. The first point at which you see this approach fail is in calculus, where you give this reasonably intellident, well-practised student a new integration to do. He will have no idea, and then you show him the method. You come back a week later, and he is extremely good at similar integrals; so you give him a different one, and he has no idea. Repeat.

What practice does is produce a very good robot. One of the problems with the (typically Chinese, with all due respect) new undergraduates is that all creativity has been drilled out of them. They are very impressive at calculating and computing with things they have seen before, but have no idea how to approach new problems, and this is what mathematics is really about, solving new problems. Once a problem has been solved, an algorithm produced, then the problem becomes an exercise for students, or something for engineers, computer scientists, physicists, etc., to play with.

Posted: **Wed Jan 20, 2010 3:48 pm UTC**

danniebenedi wrote:Actually, I just sort of thought Algebra II was standard throughout the world, the way my teachers talk about EVERYONE knowing everything in the book.

Quite probably, but why would they call the course the same name?

At my school, we had grade 9, 10, 11, 12 A-level Math, OAC Finite, OAC Algebra and Geometry and OAC Calculus. Plus grade 9, 10, 11 and 12 G and B level math, some of which had additional names.

Which course would cover Algebra II is something I would have no clue about.

I see your points in the practical uses of Matrices.

Actually, not likely. The degree to which Matrices are useful surprises me, even now.

The hardest problems I have in mathematics is when I take a test of some sort, feel really good about it, and then receive a paper with a big fat F on it, basically saying that I didn't study all the questions properly or skipped a step or mixed stuff together.

So one of the things that math lets you do is check your results.

You spend a bunch of time finding rational zeros, for example. After you are done, you can plug your values back into the original equation, and see if it actually solves the equation.

Each step can be verified easily -- if it cannot be verified easily, you should be able to break it down into smaller steps, and verify those.

If you have time on a test, there is little reason why you cannot check your own answers, and know if you got the question wrong or not, in many if not all cases.

There really are no problems I DON'T like doing except finding rational zeros. I can't STAND it, mostly because it's so much work and concentration that I find it very difficult to focus on for long periods of time.

Yes, doing calculation requires concentration for long periods of time. Strangely, that skill (of being able to concentrate on a problem for long periods of time) is possibly more useful than matrices. You could approach the problem as one of meditation, instead of mathematics -- the goal shifts from solving the problem, to working out how to concentrate on a problem that requires a bunch of brain-load, and sustain it for a long period of time.

You can also work to lower your load, if you find the current task too hard. Reduce the amount you hold in your head, and do more on the paper. Structure the work on the paper so that you don't have to remember as much for the work on the paper to work, if that makes sense?

Which is, by the way, my main problem. I love English because you can just look at it and analyse it your own way and pull something together in an hour that looks absolutely fantastic, with some skill.

Mathematics is a SET answer: if you don't get that ONE answer out of the millions of ways that you could have gone wrong, you just don't get it. Everything is wrong from that point on.

Except with Mathematics, you can check to see if your answer is right.

In English, your answer is right if your teacher likes what you did. In Mathematics, your answer is right even if the teacher doesn't like it. The teacher could even give you a failing grade in Mathematics, but your answer could still be right.

In English, that isn't the case. There are, in some senses, no right answers in English -- only popular answers.

I recently found out from my on-line Algebra teacher that I have been applying cross-multiplication wrong my entire life. Who knows what other mathematical rules I've been messing up with? There are so many rules that you must remember, and there is no Maths-Check like there is Spell-Check. Does anyone know any method to help me REMEMBER and commit to memory the theorums in mathematics?

Oh god, yes, there is maths-check. That is what makes math math and not "magic".

Pretty much everything you have ever learned in mathematics falls back on lower-level rules. And these lower level rules can be used to verify the higher level approaches.

Even the theorems can be proven from lower level rules.

Cross multiplication refers to taking (a/b) = (c/d), and turning it into ad = bc right? That can be remembered as an arbitrary "spell", but it works because this is allowed:

a/b = c/d

if you take an equation X = Y, and you multiply both sides by the same value Z, the equation is true. Ie

X = Y implies ZX = ZY

so long as the value Z is not 0.

If we have a/b, then we know b is not 0 (or at least we hope we know this). So we can use that!

a/b = c/d implies b * (a/b) = b* (c/d)

now, b * (a/b) = a if b does not equal 0.

a = b * (c/d)

Next, we note that d is not 0 (as we already have c/d, which is nonsense if d is zero).. So we do the same thing with d:

a = b * (c/d) implies d* (a) = d * (b * (c/d))

If we rearrange the right hand side, we can end up with d/d * b * c, which (for d not zero) is b * c!

This gives us:

d a = b c

Now, in math, implications chain. If X implies Y implies Z, then X implies Z.

So we started with

a/b = c/d

and we ended (in a chain of implications) with:

ad = cb

which is cross multiplication.

We don't have to take cross multiplication on faith. You don't even have to memorise cross multiplication, so long as you can derive it.

Now, memorising it makes it go much faster.

If you have been doing cross multiplication wrong, possibly you haven't been checking and understanding why the tricks they teach you work? If you understand why, it is often much easier to check your work, check your knowledge, and understand more than just mechanical steps.

Also, I actually at first LOVED doing matrices, until I got my first matrix test back completely failed because I didn't see the numbers properly and either missed the number that everything was multiplied with or saw a 0 and, in my mind, processed something like 9 or something.

Sure. So you have to double check things. Do problems twice, once early, and then again (without looking at the old work) later on.

See if you get the same result.

Posted: **Wed Jan 20, 2010 7:30 pm UTC**

achan1058 wrote:You can still practice to be creative, you know, so I disagree with most of what you said. Of course, if your practice is limited to a small type of problems, it's your fault for practicing wrong, not the fault of practicing. Also, someone who is not familiar with the tools often cannot be creative even if they want to be. It's like trying to write a fancy piece of code knowing only the algorithm intuitively but not any programming language. Anyways, I hope you will agree with me that "one surefire way for any reasonably intelligent student to be good at math is hard work", though. Most people are not geniuses, not even most mathematicians. This common myth about random flashes of inspirations that comes from nowhere is really simply wrong. In particular, there are famous mathematicians that draws thousands of graphs just to attempt to get data for a theorem. (it was before the days of computers)

Indeed, hard work is definitely important. It is necessary, but not sufficient, was my point. All of the hard work you can put in will not make up for a lack of talent, unfortunately. The talented people work hard as well, I will not deny that either; I have seen them do so.

I am not convinced that flashes of inspiration that come from nowhere are such a myth though. Yes, they normally come about when you are thinking about a problem, and you have laid the groundwork for the discovery with lots of examples/thoughts/examining of counterexamples to previous conjectures, but there is a point at which the right idea comes to you. It would be wonderful to know precisely what happens at that point, and how it happens, and there are people who try to research this topic, but obviously they are having, at best, limited success.

Posted: **Wed Jan 20, 2010 7:49 pm UTC**

I hate linear algebra, too, which I guess is mainly due to the fact that the professor I had was horrible.

But honestly, if you ever dig deeper into any field of math, you will stumble upon matrices: You can use adjacency matrices for graph theory, translation matrices for analytic geometry, you can use them for all kinds of physics including quantum mechanics and geometrical optics and of course, you can solve linear equation systems using them.

But honestly, if you ever dig deeper into any field of math, you will stumble upon matrices: You can use adjacency matrices for graph theory, translation matrices for analytic geometry, you can use them for all kinds of physics including quantum mechanics and geometrical optics and of course, you can solve linear equation systems using them.

Posted: **Wed Jan 20, 2010 8:14 pm UTC**

IMO, many of such "flashes" are wrong, and a few of them are right. We simply don't count the wrong ones because of our bias.DavCrav wrote:I am not convinced that flashes of inspiration that come from nowhere are such a myth though. Yes, they normally come about when you are thinking about a problem, and you have laid the groundwork for the discovery with lots of examples/thoughts/examining of counterexamples to previous conjectures, but there is a point at which the right idea comes to you. It would be wonderful to know precisely what happens at that point, and how it happens, and there are people who try to research this topic, but obviously they are having, at best, limited success.

Posted: **Thu Jan 21, 2010 12:37 am UTC**

achan1058 wrote:IMO, many of such "flashes" are wrong, and a few of them are right. We simply don't count the wrong ones because of our bias.

There is some truth to this viewpoint, I have to concede. But I remember an afternoon discussing Deligne--Lusztig theory and BrouĂ©'s conjecture where every suggestion I made was correct. Of course, this is bias in favour of remembering cool things, but it was cool and I don't care.

Posted: **Thu Jan 21, 2010 2:19 am UTC**

Yakk wrote:Yes, doing calculation requires concentration for long periods of time. Strangely, that skill (of being able to concentrate on a problem for long periods of time) is possibly more useful than matrices. You could approach the problem as one of meditation, instead of mathematics -- the goal shifts from solving the problem, to working out how to concentrate on a problem that requires a bunch of brain-load, and sustain it for a long period of time.

I'm going to second this. I've always been the kid who was like "psh, easy" and I would ace my homework while watching tv and eating pizza. But earlier this year the math got to the point when I needed to be minimally distracted, and right now I'm working my schedule every week so I have "quiet math time," because otherwise I make all sorts of stupid mistakes. A year ago I would have said that such focus would never make a difference, but now I am a believer.

As for your problem, these guys have really done a great job. I don't know if this is what you want to hear, but at some point you need to so you can seriously decide how math-oriented you can stand your career to be.

Posted: **Thu Jan 21, 2010 5:03 am UTC**

Well, I don't plan on my career to be maths-oriented, per se (law degree, hopefully), but I do see mathematics, particularly physics, as a potential hobby-like inspiration.

I especially like the comment about facing mathematics not as mathematics but meditation; that was quite ingenious. I just have to copy the problems down and find some quiet place to do my homework, yes?

These comments are actually quite useful not only to me but to anyone who simply finds maths and maths-based classes boring; particularly when you live in the United States and the common culture among both youth and their parents is 'I couldn't possibly do that, it's mathematics.'

I especially like the comment about facing mathematics not as mathematics but meditation; that was quite ingenious. I just have to copy the problems down and find some quiet place to do my homework, yes?

These comments are actually quite useful not only to me but to anyone who simply finds maths and maths-based classes boring; particularly when you live in the United States and the common culture among both youth and their parents is 'I couldn't possibly do that, it's mathematics.'

Posted: **Thu Jan 28, 2010 11:42 pm UTC**

I'm sympathetic to the OP, unfortunately. I hate when I'm struggling to get something and the tutor asks "Did you even take hs freshman algebra?" It's humiliating. It's not that I'm not interested, I just have a poor foundation on basic things and thus have embarrassing incompetence in all but the most basic algebraic operations. I don't know why, but it's associated with a lot of shame (for me anyway).

Whoops, off-topic whine - my guess is that the key is to find a really good tutor who knows their stuff, though. That's my plan, anyway...

Whoops, off-topic whine - my guess is that the key is to find a really good tutor who knows their stuff, though. That's my plan, anyway...

Posted: **Fri Jan 29, 2010 1:02 am UTC**

I would suggest to solid up your foundations, books, online tutorials, or even getting tutor just to do that. It needs to be fixed if you want to go on further in mathematics, since everything is built on the pieces below it.Cheezwhiz Jenkins wrote:I'm sympathetic to the OP, unfortunately. I hate when I'm struggling to get something and the tutor asks "Did you even take hs freshman algebra?" It's humiliating. It's not that I'm not interested, I just have a poor foundation on basic things and thus have embarrassing incompetence in all but the most basic algebraic operations. I don't know why, but it's associated with a lot of shame (for me anyway).

Whoops, off-topic whine - my guess is that the key is to find a really good tutor who knows their stuff, though. That's my plan, anyway...

Posted: **Fri Jan 29, 2010 3:57 am UTC**

danniebenedi wrote:Well, I don't plan on my career to be maths-oriented, per se (law degree, hopefully), but I do see mathematics, particularly physics, as a potential hobby-like inspiration.

I especially like the comment about facing mathematics not as mathematics but meditation; that was quite ingenious. I just have to copy the problems down and find some quiet place to do my homework, yes?

These comments are actually quite useful not only to me but to anyone who simply finds maths and maths-based classes boring; particularly when you live in the United States and the common culture among both youth and their parents is 'I couldn't possibly do that, it's mathematics.'

Fermat was a lawyer too! Perhaps there is something that makes lawyers like math. Perhaps lack of proofs in the courtroom make them turn to math..

Posted: **Fri Jan 29, 2010 8:30 pm UTC**

achan1058 wrote:I would suggest to solid up your foundations, books, online tutorials, or even getting tutor just to do that. It needs to be fixed if you want to go on further in mathematics, since everything is built on the pieces below it.

Very good advice - advice I hope to follow...sooner rather than later if possible.