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Does math come naturally to you? or did you have to work at it

  1. Oct 18, 2012 #1
    My whole life mathematics has always been a difficult subject for me that i have struggled greatly with. English, Art, History and Science (w/o math) came very easy. But math has always been this like this daunting intimidating shadow above me. I can't seem to wrap my brain around it, as others do. I talk to people in my classes they tell me for them it's just "natural" i don't see how this is possible for some people to just "GET IT" and others like me not at all. I have to struggle beyond belief to get the concepts down and remember the formulas. But it's not so much the memorization as it is just "grasping" the whole idea, with others it just seems to CLICK immediately, that's something i envy greatly. I am wondering what other peoples perspectives are on this. For you growing up was it just a "natural understanding" or did you have parents and teachers push to achieve higher so in effect you became very good at it?

    Thank you
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 18, 2012 #2


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    We have different distributions of talents, and I don't think there is anything unique about maths in that respect.
    Some are very good at languages and seem to grasp much earlier than others what would be a well-formed sentence, say, in a new language.
  4. Oct 18, 2012 #3


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    Hey Niaboc67 and welcome to the forums.

    Personally, I was introduced to math at a young age and spent most of my free time throughout all of high school programming and the programming actually helped me gain more intuition than a lot of my coursework for mathematics.

    I do have a "knack" for mathematics but I still have to practice it regularly even having the "knack" for it.

    Also ironically I had a horrible understanding of probability in high school (i.e. at the end) but now having gone through university and learned it "properly" I have a far greater understanding of it having had good teachers and resources to go from.

    One thing about the human mind that is a great advantage is that we have a way to use many forms of language, and I think that in learning, everyone has their own "native language" in which things make sense.

    If everyone else is speaking in a "foreign tongue" as it were, then if you look at this you'll probably think "Why am I not getting it?", but if it was in your own native language, then you would probably say "Ohh yeah that makes sense" and the trick is to find a way to get the stuff in a language that you understand and have an easy way to relate to.

    Once you find this way then you can build the bridges from that to the other "language" that is in your books and instead of looking at greek symbols, you will think in your own language and instead of greek symbols you will see something else.

    In programming I spent a lot of time on 3D graphics and animation and I was doing math without even really realizing it and the good thing about this approach was that I could visualize everything since all the data was output to the screen in 3D shapes in a 3D world so it made things a lot easier.

    But if you want to learn math, then my suggestion is find your "native language" to take math and then convert it to this native tongue and then when you see these weird symbols and arcane proofs, then build up the connections until you can look at the symbols and see a concept rather than a bunch of letters.

    Also if you have a question, just ask us here and I gaurantee you many people who have practiced mathematics for a long time will break it down in the simplest way they can and that is an invaluable resource for you if you want to go in that direction.
  5. Oct 18, 2012 #4
    Personally, math does seem 'sensible' and 'natural' in the questions context, if you know what I mean. I may understand it before all my peers when the lesson is taught, yet I always panic before tests and such, which I usually don't study that completely for either because I'm lazy, under-motivated, or too sure of myself. So I think the 'natural' part of math applies only to a very select few people, whereas aptitude in the subject which so many people display is also a combination of hard work, dedication and luck.
  6. Oct 18, 2012 #5
    I still have to work at math a lot.
  7. Oct 18, 2012 #6


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    I think the question is too relative for a meaningful answer. Given the wide range of abilities, as arildno mentions, one can always find people who learn certain topics faster or slower than themselves. In other words, am I a natural: yes and no, depending on how one defines "natural ability" and to whom one is comparing oneself.
  8. Oct 18, 2012 #7
    I like maths, and the rules usually make sense. However I forget the rules quickly, and if I do the same maths problem 3 times I tend to get 3 different answers. My solution? Do any maths problem at least 3 times :)
  9. Oct 18, 2012 #8


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    Math itself is not as difficult as it may seem. Math is more like a universal language than anything else; a language we can all communicate precisely and effectively regardless of whether you're english, french, russian, spanish or whatever.

    As a kid I was always good at math, but around grade 10 ( Simple quadratic stuff ) I actually failed that course with a 49% and started to have a bad taste for the subject...

    Around the age of 17 though... I dunno, something sort of clicked for me. I started to appreciate the topic and how it allowed me to communicate my thoughts and ideas more effectively regardless if I was speaking of math or anything at all.

    I think you must appreciate the topic and what it has to offer you in the grand scheme of things or you wont feel compelled to learn what that giant string of numbers and letters actually means.

    So next time you sit down and try to look at a theorem of proof, try to actually understand what role each individual variable or object has in your proof. I find that always allows me to grasp what the theorem of proof is trying to communicate to me and truly understanding something in that manner is one of the most rewarding feelings I can describe.
  10. Oct 19, 2012 #9
    Well, I was kind of a natural at times, but it wasn't all smooth sailing. In high school, I had trouble finishing a lot the tests fast enough. There were occasions where I set curves on tests without even trying, but that lack of effort meant that there were times when I didn't do that well. I barely got a B- in my high school trig class. Today, it seems absurd that I would have the slightest difficulty with it, so I can see that I have come a long way. It's hilarious to me today that calculus was even the slightest bit difficult, but even though I did okay in it, I had to work hard at it.

    That can happen to anyone. Regardless of what level you reach. If you work hard at it, you'll be laughing at yourself that you had so much trouble five years ago with what now seems like such trivial things. Five years ago, you might have felt stupid for not getting it, but now it's so easy it's like a joke. Of course, I never felt stupid when it came to math, until grad school. Now, as I am struggling to finish my PhD, some days, it feels like I am the dumbest mathematician of all time.

    Often, what happens is that people build up gaps in their background knowledge that make it hard to go further. One proposed antidote for this is the concept of mastery-based learning, where you don't go on until you have mastered all the previous material.

    You might want to look into JUMP math. It's geared towards grades 1-8, with any student in mind, but particularly the ones who struggle.

    It's no surprise that most people are bad at math the way they are being taught.
  11. Oct 20, 2012 #10
    Being a natural is relative...compared to many people I am bad at math, but relative to most of my peers I am naturally good at it.
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