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Other I feel like i have trouble with Math....

  1. May 5, 2016 #1
    So, I don't really know if I can explain this the right way...

    I use math every day. mainly basic type stuff. Lots of geometry, some trig, huge amounts of ratios... nothing outside the relm of highschool stuff. (I do engineering for injection molding)

    i really enjoy math, and I have no problem "mimicking the teacher". By that, I have no problem rememebering order of ops, how to manipulate forumlas, move numbers around, etc. But honestly ... I dont feel like in all my math learnings, That I actually learned anything. (other than how to move numbers around in formulas)

    Now I only made it to trig 2, so maybe its just that I didn't get get far enough into, but I almost felt like i was struggling because, while, I could do the calculations, I didnt "feel" like I knew what the numbers i was manipulating related to. Does that make sense?

    To me, its almost like this... We have done a great job quanitifying gravity. We can tell you how far/fast a ball falls... but what math "explains" why gravity works the way it does? (i know this is more physics related, but just an example) it "feels," to me, like there is another side to math that Im just missing.... quantitative, vs qualitative maybe?

    Anyway, I want to go back to school as a math major.. i want to learn everything i can about the base, before i do graduate studies in advanced simulations and physics... but I want to make sure the issue Im having with math now, will resolve itself, and "open up" to me so to speak.

    maybe its just me.....
  2. jcsd
  3. May 5, 2016 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Are you wondering why Math explains the world around us so well or is it that you math education stopped at high school math?

    While I majored in physics I struggled to ask the question on why math works so well but felt stupid asking it.

    NOVA had a show on that answered the question for me and maybe it will for you:

    from NOVA at:


    If its that your math education is weak then take a look at the videos on MathIsPower4U:


    The sequence of videos can get you upto first year college math ie Calculus, Linear Algebra and Differential Equations from highschool Algebra.
  4. May 5, 2016 #3
    because your brain must not like it so you may be good at it but your brain isn´t truly paying attention
  5. May 5, 2016 #4
    sorry about my spelling
  6. May 5, 2016 #5
    I dont think Im bad at math.. sure the things i use infrequently I might have to get a quick refresher in once in a while, but As far as getting accurate and precise answers, I have no problem there. It just feels to me like, all I'm doing is quantifying things, and not really laying out the underlying cause of "why"

    For example... my Trig teacher taught the law of sines, how to do the work, and i aced the test... it was only after i went on youtube, and found the proof of the law of sines, that i fully understood what i was doing and why the law of sines worked. because of that, i feel like i have a much better grip on that particular instance of trig. SO I guess what I'm looking for, is where do I go to learn more about the "proofs" of mathematics, so I don't have to act like a parrot and just plug in formulas all day. Or does that come as you progress through the higher level math classes
  7. May 5, 2016 #6

    George Jones

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Mathematics is more than this, particularly as you work on more advanced math and harder problems. Mathematics is an art. I love a statement by CERN physicist Christophe Grojean,

    "Equations may be universal, but the way we understand them and combine them with other results is very personal."
  8. May 5, 2016 #7


    Staff: Mentor

    Okay, I understand now. I ran into this also when trying to recover some old math. I started to question why something worked.

    Specifically, it was in vector analysis with dot and cross products and that led me back to the sin/cos for angle addition proofs that you mentioned which then got me to appreciate how a geometrical diagram was used to tease out the components and then derive the law. Once I had that down, I had a foundation and then the other laws came from algebraic operations.

    Another was understanding the curl of a vector and finally I saw this description of a rotor spinning in a stream that it then made sense to me.


    What this means is that you are now getting a real understanding of math in a way not possible when you were younger and more impatient to do other things.
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