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If I disliked math as a kid, is that a sign that I am not naturally talented in it?

  1. Nov 18, 2011 #1
    If I disliked math as a kid, is that a sign that I am not naturally talented in it??

    From grades K-12 I never liked math one bit. But now that I am college I find myself much more interested in it. However, I am regrettably a very competitive and pretentious person so I am worried that this new "interest" in math may be contrived. Perhaps I am subconsciously convincing myself that I find math now interesting just so I can major in it and look down on other majors.

    So I have 2 questions...

    1.) How can I know if this new interest is genuine?

    2.) Does the fact that I disliked math as a kid (and was very passionate about reading, writing, and drawing) indicate that I don't possess the natural talent it would require to succeed as a math major? If you ask any math professor about their childhood experiences with math they will tell you that they loved it/ were naturally drawn to it/ showed a knack for it...
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2011
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  3. Nov 18, 2011 #2

    I like Serena

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    Re: If I disliked math as a kid, is that a sign that I am not naturally talented in i

    A bad teacher may have made you dislike math...
     
  4. Nov 18, 2011 #3
    Re: If I disliked math as a kid, is that a sign that I am not naturally talented in i

    I didn't like math until age 18 when I took a physics class. Even then, it was gradual. Almost done with a PhD in math now. Actually, I always wanted to be an artist up until that point.

    Actually, my teacher in 5th grade said I was very mathematically talented and should get into it. Presumably, this was on the basis of my ability to fold origami, and maybe some other clues that I'm not quite aware of.
     
  5. Nov 18, 2011 #4

    micromass

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    Re: If I disliked math as a kid, is that a sign that I am not naturally talented in i

    I always disliked math very much when I was a kid. It was a set of fixed rules that you had to follow to get to the answer. There was no creativity in the subject. Sadly this is the way math is taught today. I remember that I spent days memorizing different definitions. We had to because we would be tested on them and every rewording would be marked down.

    It wasn't until I had a wonderful teacher in my senior years that I saw what math was all about. And I immediately loved it.

    Talking to other people, there are quite some people who had my experience. Math seems to be badly taught. College mathematics is WAY different from mathematics you see as a kid. So I guess it's not all weird to hate mathematics and then love it once you get into the real fun stuff. And no, I wouldn't say that it implies a disability in math.
     
  6. Nov 18, 2011 #5
    Re: If I disliked math as a kid, is that a sign that I am not naturally talented in i

    thanks guys those are some inspiring responses!

    @ homeomorphic: you are my role model! I wanted to be a fantasy author most of my life but now I want to switch to math. Out of curiousity, how lacking was your math background entering college compared to most math majors? I never took advanced math classes K-12 and I did not pay one lick of attention in any of my classes (unfortunate) so I fear that I missed out on the crucial building of math intuition that takes place during formative years. With piano, one who doesn't start getting lessons around age 6 or earlier has basically zero chance of making it as a concert pianist. Those early years are very pivotal for how we develop so I find it amazing that you were able to switch your focus from the arts to math so successfully.

    Please give me some tips and insight into your journey, because like I said: you are a living example of what I wish to achieve!
     
  7. Nov 18, 2011 #6
    Re: If I disliked math as a kid, is that a sign that I am not naturally talented in i

    I wanted to be a fantasy illustrator. I took calculus in high school and passed the AP exam, so I did have a head start, but not like one of those guys who learns calculus at age 12. I didn't pay much attention in class. My performance was uneven because I didn't take it very seriously. I considered studying for tests to be bad luck. I was pretty good about doing the homework, though. So, I sometimes managed to set the curve on tests.

    In college, I spent a lot of time as an electrical engineering major before switching to math. Studying electrical engineering delayed me in some ways, but it also contributed something to my intuition and mathematical knowledge.

    I have a friend who is also trying to finish his PhD who started math at a very late age. He got into programming in college and then math. He had to start with trig, I think, but his progress was very rapid and in a few years ended up in grad school. I knew another guy in grad school with a similar story, but he ended up not passing his quals and now he's probably riding his bike a lot or being some kind of outdoor guide. Still, he got into grad school with a fellowship, and those are hard to get, so he must have at least done really well in undergrad.

    Some famous mathematicians seem to have gotten into serious math relatively late. Raoul Bott was an electrical engineering major, I think. Atiyah was a chemistry major for a while (although I think he may have done some math earlier, too). Stephen Smale apparently had mixed grades and was more interested in chemistry in high school. But you don't have to be famous. There are all different levels of mathematicians.


    I don't think paying attention in your classes would have done much for your intuition, unless you had better teachers than is the norm. I will say, that, in my case, I always was inspired by how Einstein said he thought in pictures. I liked to think that way, too. And I did get a little bit of practice with it in high school and maybe earlier.


    I play piano, myself, and I'm not sure how true that is. I started at age 12, but I suspect if I just decided to quit math and just play piano, if I practiced 10 hours a day over several years, I could be a concert pianist. Maybe I'm wrong. You might not be the best because the best ones head such a huge head start, but I think you can do it if you are willing to put that kind of effort into it.


    Well, I may never be the greatest mathematician. But it looks like I will at least be a math prof next year or more likely in 3 or 4 more after a postdoc. Math research is really overwhelming. I'm still not sure how good I will turn out to be at it. My thesis has gone slowly, but recently, I have been picking up the pace in order to graduate this year. If nothing else, I know I could be a great expository writer and help a lot of my students to succeed.

    Well, it's a long story. In high school, before I got interested in math, I was starting to get interested in a lot of different intellectual things, like philosophical questions, psychology, and eventually physics. With my new found intellectual curiosity, I just wanted to learn as much about everything as I possibly could. So, it was very natural for the question of learning how to learn to come up. Actually, to a great extent, both the intellectual curiosity and the idea of learning how to learning and becoming smarter both came from my best friend at that time. So, I devoted a considerable amount of thought into the best ways to learn as much as I possibly could. I researched it on the internet a bit. Memory techniques, creativity techniques, etc.

    One of the things I took away from it was the importance of doing a lot of review. I toyed around with the idea of trying never to forget anything that I learned. After all, what was the point of studying it if you just forget everything you worked so hard to learn?

    One technique I had was to keep reviewing the subject in my mind, over and over again, making sure I knew all the main points. Each day, I would try to summarize everything I had learned in the classes I was taking, and I spent some time reviewing previous classes as well. I've gotten worse about doing this lately because grad school is so overwhelming.

    Actually, I think having a foggy memory of a subject is good enough for some purposes, and you probably shouldn't try to hard to retain things you don't need. By the time you get to grad school, the maintenance problem becomes difficult because you just know so much, it's hard to keep track of whether you are remembering everything. I still don't know the best solution, but it's safe to say it isn't just letting everything you learn slide away. In math, there is also the idea of just remembering how to derive everything, rather than remembering the stuff itself.

    Anyway, the approach you take can make a big difference.
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2011
  8. Nov 18, 2011 #7
    Re: If I disliked math as a kid, is that a sign that I am not naturally talented in i

    My youngest daughter just came home with an A in math - for the first time ever. After the celebration wound down, I inquired as to why her grade had improved?

    Her response was "Mr. _____ is hot". She went on to explain that all of the girls are trying harder - to impress him. Hopefully she'll continue the study habits and maintain an interest in the subject - when the crush wears off.
     
  9. Nov 18, 2011 #8

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    Re: If I disliked math as a kid, is that a sign that I am not naturally talented in i

    I like it! :smile:

    As a private tutor I've had a couple of students who are pretty smart, but who got slighting comments from their teachers at an early age.
     
  10. Nov 18, 2011 #9
    Re: If I disliked math as a kid, is that a sign that I am not naturally talented in i

    @ homeomorphic: I am disappointed to hear that you took calculus in high school and were diligent with the HW and set the curve on tests because that makes our K-12 experiences very different. I never did any homework or anything academic period. You strike me more as someone who was very good in all academic subjects and worked hard at them but just had a preference for the arts until you turned 17. :( :(

    I really appreciate your response though! I just wish I could go back in time and talk some sense into my lazy brat K-12 self. What would be good if someone could post ITT who did not try AT ALL in K-12 education but then buckled down at around age 20 and eventually got a math PhD (my dream).
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2011
  11. Nov 18, 2011 #10
    Re: If I disliked math as a kid, is that a sign that I am not naturally talented in i

    When i was in primary school lower school for the USA lol i had a teacher who was deranged and she would pick on you if you were quiet and if you dodnt give her an answer within 10 seconds she would completely ruin you she would call you thick and put you on this special help table even if you knew the answer you were too scared to even say anything i remember parents complained including mine and she then sat down with me to do some maths and i was shaking i was so scared of her and when she got annoyed she would poker her finger into your shoulder blade with her nail. From then and through what you would call high school i HATED maths it was only when i started teaching myself maths i realised it wasn't so bad. It did take me a while to be able to get over the maths block though your brain becomes blocked to even being able to understand it once you get past that its all good
     
  12. Nov 18, 2011 #11

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    Re: If I disliked math as a kid, is that a sign that I am not naturally talented in i

    I'm glad you got through the block and can now enjoy math, which is as it should be!
     
  13. Nov 19, 2011 #12

    turbo

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    Re: If I disliked math as a kid, is that a sign that I am not naturally talented in i

    I disliked math as a child because it was so boring. I always got A's but I hated it because the courses never went fast enough to keep my interest.

    When I got to HS, I was lucky enough to have a couple of decent math teachers who would steer you into new directions if they saw some interest. One of the teachers developed an entire new course in his first year teaching at the school, just for students who planned to attend college and needed more math. He called it "advanced math". I loved math then. There was new stuff coming at you almost every day. Plus, he made it a point to make us tear apart every problem, and not teach us by rote.

    He is the winningest basketball coach in the history of our school district (now retired from that, but still teaching), and that is a HUGE thing in my old home-town. It was often said that during home-games and tournaments, burglars could have a free-for-all, because nobody would be home.
     
  14. Nov 19, 2011 #13
    Re: If I disliked math as a kid, is that a sign that I am not naturally talented in i

    I think there are many variables to consider including number of students in the classroom, teaching method (for instance whether or not they follow/utilize a text book), the conditions in the classroom (hot/cold, lighting, noise, distractions), the teacher's ability to control the group, and the teacher's response to failure (or struggling).

    I've discussed this topic many times with my children's instructors. What is the strategy to deal with students who haven't learned a specific lesson - while the class moves forward to the next lesson? We all know that math follows a progressive path - a failure to comprehend a basic component along the way might de-rail a student a few years later.

    Personally, I think the key to keep a student interested is to focus on making sure they understand the current/past lesson before moving forward (unless it's to demonstrate why it's important to review the older material).
     
  15. Nov 19, 2011 #14
    Re: If I disliked math as a kid, is that a sign that I am not naturally talented in i

    I was never very interested in school until I was maybe 16 or 17. I didn't do all that well in high school. My gpa was 3.2, I think, although in my senior year, it was 3.8 (and the one B I got was in calculus, oddly enough). As I said, my performance was uneven. I almost got a C+ in trig. I remember being worried about it because I wanted to take AP calc and you had to get at least a B-. I wasn't horrible, but I wasn't a great student. I just did enough to get by and get into college if I wanted later. Also, before I was 16 or 17, I wasn't very intellectual at all. It started around then. And it didn't mean I was interested in school. I was interested in things outside of school.


    As I said, I have had friends in the math PhD program here who might fit that description better than I do. 20 isn't that late. I didn't know I was going to grad school for math until I was maybe 22. If I had started thinking about it at the beginning of my undergrad, maybe I would be getting my PhD at MIT or Princeton. I didn't really plan ahead for grad school at all. I know what to do at this point to get into grad school. I think if you gave me a reasonably bright 18 year old who was, maybe competent at basic algebra (beginning high school level), I bet I could get them into an Ivy League grad school in 4 years without too much difficulty if I mentored them and they took it very seriously.
     
  16. Nov 19, 2011 #15
    Re: If I disliked math as a kid, is that a sign that I am not naturally talented in i

    Thank you i am too! And i think that there are too many you have had bad experiences especially here in the uk so many are left behind because they stay invisible to the teachers in the hopes they will not be ridiculed here's hoping maths teachers get better
     
  17. Nov 20, 2011 #16
    Re: If I disliked math as a kid, is that a sign that I am not naturally talented in i

    check your PMs homeomorphic
     
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