Why is math so hard?

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auntlori's profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I feel your pain. I always choose words over numbers when I get to choose, and I do not consider myself to be very good at math. What I have learned, however, is that even though I do not have a natural affinity for or interest in math, I am capable of doing it. 

Brain studies have shown that 

learning math is somewhat like learning to read: we can do it but, it takes time and effort, and requires mastering increasingly complex skills and content. Just about everyone will get to the point where they can read a serious newspaper, and just about everyone will get to the point where they can do high school-level algebra and geometry.

One of the things that makes mathematics so difficult is that it deals with abstract concepts that are represented by abstract symbols. In early years, these symbols--which at first are numbers and simple signs--may not be adequately explained as such--as symbols for abstract representations (sometimes representations of concrete objects and sometimes representations of deeper abstractions)--thus young students may not understand what is happening when they perform mathematical operations resulting in an inability to keep up in later mathematics classes when the abstractions are more complex. The abstract nature of mathematical symbols and concepts is the primary reason mathematics is so difficult.

We all get to choose how we approach a class or a subject, and it is very easy to walk into a classroom with the idea that we "hate" the subject (whatever it is) or are "no good" at it. Of course this is exactly the kind of thinking that keeps us from being successful in that subject. Some people feel this way about reading, and they dread the thought of having to read; others feel that same dread about chemistry or math or even physical education. To ensure that our attitudes do not keep us from being successful, we have to make a conscious decision to have a positive attitude about the subject.

Another contributing factor to having any kind of academic struggle is not always asking for help when we need it. It is so easy just to give up if we forget the steps of an equation or whatever else it might be; instead, we should seek whatever help we need in order to make sure we give ourselves the best chance to succeed.

Finally, we have to remind ourselves that everything in life will not be easy, and every time we are confronted with one of those "hard things," we simply have to see it as an opportunity to practice the life skill of overcoming obstacles. It is hard, but it is a life lesson in perseverance and resilience, two things we all need as we face the difficult things in our lives.

I have attached an interesting article (from which I took the quote I cited above) which might encourage you to know that you have the capacity and capability to do mathematics as well as nearly everyone else. Look at it as something you have to work at and practice, just as you had to work at and practice your reading, but as something you can be successful at once you do.

Best of luck as you finish your mathematics studies for the year!

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PrunTuns's profile pic

PrunTuns | (Level 1) Honors

Posted on

Math itself is an extremely complex subject that is the result of centuries of discovery, modification, and application to the real world. To hone those math skills is to make sense of all the things kids (and not kids only) usually are reluctant to incorporate, like theorems and formulas and symbols (oh my!). Of course math can be confusing because a large part of it involves mulling over abstract concepts and visuals. It can be made even more so when applied to a specific career, like engineering or architecture, when it is time to stop simply regurgitating memorized steps. 

But I also agree with the poster above, auntlori, who made a point that math can be made so much more difficult when perceived negatively. Math is already pretty challenging by itself--how would the lack of will to tackle it make it any easier? It definitely doesn't (of course, there are exceptions for nearly everything). Maybe that loathing of math originates from bad teachers. Maybe one associates the unpleasantness of the classroom environment with the subject. Or perhaps one is simply discouraged. All of these are examples of factors that could make math less enjoyable, and, in the end, more difficult to absorb. 

The link http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/03/27/why-is-math-so-hard-for-so-many/ offers another view on why math is so hard. I just found it interesting, but I would read other articles as well for some broader insight on your question. 

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anzheng's profile pic

anzheng | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) Honors

Posted on

Math may seem really challenging because of its numerous concepts and ideas. Understanding these concepts takes a lot of time, and requires a lot of repetition. It takes a lot of time to learn, and people often get annoyed if they can't figure the problem out, and just give up. Even though it may seem hard, once you get the concepts it's actually easy to understand. Keep working hard at it, and don't give up!:)

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sid-sarfraz | Student, Graduate | (Level 2) Salutatorian

Posted on

Well maths is not hard. Its my favorite subject. You think its hard because you believe that its hard. Once you start taking maths as technical but not hard. Take it as a challenge that you want to take and win. Once you start believing that math is easy then you wont see it as difficult. Seriously trust me you just have to believe and you will win. It only and only depends on your own beliefs.

eli468's profile pic

eli468 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

I agree with the above people that with enough patience and practice, math can be easy to do. However, there is a theory as to why some people can understand math much easier and quicker than others. 

"According to some brain science scholars, logical, left-brain thinkers tend to understand things in sequential bits, while artistic, intuitive, right-brainers are more global. They take in a lot of information at one time and let it 'sink in.'" Essentially they are saying that it may be more difficult for left-brain thinkers because it takes more time for the concepts to go through their minds. This is where patience comes in. Both types typically will have to practice math problems before fully understanding a concept, but it can be more difficult for left-brain thinkers because it may take longer for it to sink into their memory. They may need more time to grasp concepts which in a class, as you may know, never seems to really stop and take a break so therefore they can feel behind. 

It can also be difficult because math is a subject you build off of. You need to know 'this' concept in order to do 'this other' concept. Math builds off of itself. If a part is missing or cannot be understood, then it can be hard to continue building to a more advanced level with a faulty foundation. One way to make math easier is to go back to some basics and get those down so that way moving to a higher level can be easier. It would take more time, but it can really help. 

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kevin0001's profile pic

kevin0001 | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted on

Math can be difficult at first, but once you practice and get used to it, math can actually be easy or fun. Math is hard because at first, you wouldn't understand it. but, once you learn all the ways to solve the math problems it won't be that hard anymore. The key is practice and understanding what is required to solve the problem.

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taangerine | Student, Grade 12 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

Although math can be hard at times, practice makes it easier to understand math. The more time and precision placed into math problems can give a positive outcome of giving you an easier experience with math. Keep practicing and trying hard, and Im sure you'll get it! 

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jess1999 | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

Math itself isn't really hard as long as you get the concepts and can memorize the formulas. I believe the only tricky part about math is the time. Sometimes it can take a very long time to solve one single problem, and one tiny mistake would lead to the wrong answer. 

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ik9744 | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

Math is very easy if you keep trying to learn it. At first it could confuse you but sooner or later you would get hang of it.

crystaltu001's profile pic

crystaltu001 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

Math is not hard once you get used to it. You just have to keep on practicing until you understand it. 

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acompanioninthetardis | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

math is not so hard once you get the hand of the concept it simply requires alot of practice, in my opinion. There's also plenty of sources ot help people out, it may seem complicated but if you follow the rules it becomes extremely easy in some cases. 

zumba96's profile pic

zumba96 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

Like I said before math gets a lot harder as you get older. Soon you wish you were back in 7th grade doing Algebra until like integrals and double integrals in Calculus. Math gets hard. Life gets hard. Everything gets harder but if you work hard and understand it you'll feel better and even proud of yourself that you accomplished things that you weren't sure about before and when you reach Calculus you'll look back at Algebra in 7th grade (which you'll probably take within a couple of years) and be like wow how easy was Algebra but now I get Calculus too

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parama9000 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

Well you will have to delve into it until you finally fill immersed in it, and then you will get it.

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Jyotsana | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

If you put your time and concentration and going through the problem each step , you will find out it's not that really hard. You have to keep practicing the concepts and the formulas until u get it and it will be a lot easy.

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Yojana_Thapa | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

Math is hard, i understand because the concepts are so complicating. It is confusing. But, once you know the concepts and the formulas it will be easier. Some topics in math are easy because the concept isn't hard at all! For example Pythagorean Theorem, it is self explanatory once you understand the formula. Algebra requires thinking and you have to be willing to give it all. Overall math is hard unless you understand the concepts.

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