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I like math but I am poor at it

  1. Nov 13, 2014 #1
    I work full time as a Data Analyst.

    I took a degree in statistics, well an add on degree really doing 8 units.

    I've done

    Calc II
    Calc III

    Statistics I, II, III and Experimental Design and Statistical Modelling

    The problem is because I work full time I never get to study and because I work on the financial side of things my head is always spinning after work. I tend to do well on assignments but never well in exams. I just forget too much of what I learn. Then I look at it in the book and go "oh yeah I get that". I also don't have time to game the system to figure out not how to learn content, but how to get a good grade.

    Coming to the end of my 8 units and my results are to be expected. I don't do the weekly problem sets. I don't get in enough repetition so I don't excel.

    My question is that I love learning all this math stuff and I want to learn more. But I am hesitant because I keep getting fairly average results. I really feel I should get straight A's but I ALWAYS crash and burn on the exam.

    So what do you guys think ? Is there hope for me or should I just give up ?

    I really do prefer to go to a university that offers online study as it makes it so much less complicated with work. There are schools around that do this.

    I'm also thinking maybe I shouldn't give up so soon as I've only just scratched the surface.

    Problem more interested in the less abstract side of mathematics too.

  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 13, 2014 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Test anxiety always gets to even the best of students. You need to make crib notes that you memorize and then when you take the test write them down immediately so you can refer to them while taking the test.

    As an example, you're about to take a trig test and you must use the identities but you can't remember them so you memorize the sin2 + cos2 = 1 and recall how to get the others by dividing by sin2 or cos2...

    Having said that you must actually do the problem examples in your book and see if you can reproduce the steps without looking and have reasons why you're doing the step.

    Your mind can play lazy games with you luring you into a sense of I undestand that but you must continually test your believe to see its not always true.
  4. Nov 14, 2014 #3
    It also depends on the person. I forget quite a bit when taking math exams, mostly got high B's in all my math classes due to just not remembering how to apply mathematical principles at the appropriate times. My friend who is currently in my circuits class super good at math. He does half the homework assignment and gets A's on his exams. How does he do so well? Have no clue! He is just super good at math, has the brain power.
  5. Nov 15, 2014 #4
    “the human mind is seldom satisfied, and is certainly never exercising its highest functions, when it is doing the work of a calculating machine.” JC Maxwell
  6. Nov 17, 2014 #5
    Hello, im responding 'cause i was kind of in the same situation as you. Im 16 by the way but it doesnt matter...all my previous high school and jr.high school years was spended playing League of Legends, then i realised the mistake and i stopped from these to study physics and mathematics in a higher level not because i was good...but because i loved them...all the previous years i was taking a test...i was nervous when the time had come and i was wishing to get easy problems to get the A now, it doesnt even matter....im ahead of my school in maths and im planning to finish the high school maths and keep working...im studying maths for competitions too and they help a ton! My advice is to see mathematics from another perspective, maths is like a tool..everything around us is applied maths..So to sum up cause i said a lot of unuseful things you have to solve problems not because of the tests..dont take them too seriously study for yourself and the "test" or whatever this is will seem easier to you just emphasize deeply on everything you do if u want to excel that my moto..
    sorry for my bad english .still working on it
  7. Nov 17, 2014 #6
    I think I see the source of your problem.

    If you do not put in the work UP FRONT how can you expect a satisfactory end result? Some people are "good at math" most have to work to be "good at math" sounds like you are one of the most. One can make any number of arguments (excuses) about why they did not study. In the end they would be unrealistic in their expectations to include "A"s. Do yourself a favor, stop trying to be something that you are not, IE."good at math" and do the work.
    Test taking is another story. The basic theory for this is, if you are prepared you should do reasonably well. Sometime this is not always true, but again it is all in the preparation for said test and relates directly back to doing the work up front.
    I know this may not be what you want to hear, but it is true for anything in life.
  8. Nov 17, 2014 #7
    I cant agree more with jmeps
  9. Nov 17, 2014 #8


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I got mostly B's in my math career in college. A's are tough to get if you have a real professor.

    Even with my B's in math, I did just fine.

    3.0 cumlative average is just fine for most employers.

    A's in college are a lot different than A's in high school.
  10. Nov 17, 2014 #9
    I earned straight A's in my physics and math courses in college, and I can safely say that no one is just "good at math." The ones who are "good at math" are the ones that simply practiced. They seem to just "get it" but they've done the work behind the scenes to understand the material. This means doing pretty much every problem in your textbook (and even some outside of it) and understanding all of the worked examples. It's tiresome solving problems at first, but at some point, you just get used to it and even enjoy it. You will get better. Just practice!

    Hope I helped.

    *edit* I have seen prepared people bomb exams (myself included) due to nerves. If this is the case, then you might have to be creative about how you handle stress. I don't have this answer for you, but I personally chatted up with everyone around me about how easy the exam was probably going to be. It inspired confidence (at least to me, other students told me to shut the f up), but I see other students use stress balls or do something cognitively relaxing. It's all down to what works for you!
  11. Nov 18, 2014 #10

    Mark Harder

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I've sat in on advanced science classes as an adult who is out of practice with scholarly pursuits, and I know it's hard to take good notes in class and develop a good strategy for taking tests.

    Ask yourself why you have so little confidence in yourself when taking tests. Is it because you know you haven't done the work? You need to do more work, yes, but that doesn't mean you can't do it more efficiently If you have little time, you need more efficient ways to use it. Have you tried paying a tutor to help you learn the subject, to smooth over the rough patches for instance?
  12. Nov 18, 2014 #11


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    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Education Advisor

    jmeps hit the nail on the head. You have to put in the work. You're not forgetting what you learned; you never really learned it in the first place. Learning requires that you think about and actively engage the material. If you're not doing the work, you're not engaging your mind, and you're not really learning. It's quite easy to convince yourself you know the material because you read the homework solutions and they made sense, but it's quite different actually trying to come up with those solutions on your own, like on a test. It's like driving a car. You can watch others drive around, read about the rules of the road, and so on. It seems simple enough, and you may think you have it all figured out before you ever get behind the wheel of a car. But reality is quite different, and that's why everyone has to practice before they're let loose on the road.

    One thing you should do is look into any resources your school offers for learning and test-taking strategies. You have limited time, so you need to learn how to use what time you do have efficiently.
  13. Nov 19, 2014 #12
    Thanks. I too agree with your post.

    Yep. I know that now. I did well on all of the assignments so I guess I did convince myself of what was not true. I really, really wanted to do well and put in literally all of my free time for 3 week or so before the exam and I did not do well. So it is still very disappointing. The question is do I keep chasing this or do I just give up on it ? I don't think that 8 units is really enough. I have only scratched the surface of the content available and only done basic things. So I think I still have time to do well in my studies if I chose to continue. I am questioning this a lot, because if I struggle with the basic content, then that could be a sign to give up now or suffer disappointment in the future.

    Just to be clear I am not doing this for financial reasons I am perfectly happy doing what I am doing for a living right now.
  14. Nov 19, 2014 #13
    Okay, answer this. Do you like this or is it something that you think you should do?
    In terms of scratching the surface, think of learning to swim. Then the question becomes. How far from shore do I want to go?
    Remember that the farther out you go the deeper the water (or whatever you would call it ) gets.
    If you do the math (no pun intended) it would appear that the 3 weeks of study time is not enough when you consider that the course probably ran for 10-12 weeks and math like all other subjects is built from blocks. Bad support (faulty understanding) = bad use of rules = not doing well in testing or further studies. Now is the time to get involved in what you are doing by learning the basics understanding them and being able to use them properly.
    How far you would like to go is up to you, what you are willing to do to get there is the real decider. Note that cutting corners gains you nothing, so it should be an honest approach. If after giving this an HONEST try, your question should be answerable.
    Oh, and yeah you still have to do the work upfront.

    Good luck in your studies
  15. Nov 26, 2014 #14
    Hard to explain, I did it out of interest, but now that I think about it I don't feel comfortable discussing what I found interesting as I think it will just make me sound stupid.

    I actually studied more than 3 weeks. 3 weeks was when I started dedicating all of my time to it but I stupidly did not do enough of the practice problems. I did well on all of the assignments.

    By the way I'm not sure exactly how the units I've done translate so I just kinda guessed at what the general American equivalent would be based on course descriptions :P
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