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I'm having trouble "reading" math

  1. Apr 5, 2015 #1
    Normally I have very good reading comprehension, but when I try to read mathematical statements I'm finding that even though I know what they mean it feels like they don't register fully.

    When you read math, do you read it to yourself translated into plain English? Or is there another way I'm supposed to think about it?
     
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  3. Apr 5, 2015 #2

    jim hardy

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    I have to reproduce with pencil and paper every math step that an author takes.
    Else it's "in one ear and out the other" , nothing sticks in between.

    It takes some rigor to train the mind to associate the right "feelings" with words.


    Here's what Einstein said on the subject:

    I suppose there are people who think in equations. I envy them.
     
  4. Apr 5, 2015 #3

    symbolipoint

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    Not sure what you mean. Do you refer to the discussion passages or to symbolism? Learning to read the symbolism is a lengthy process and requires dedicated practice and exercise and study. A person will soon enough learn to read some of the symbolism very quickly. SOME of this relies on the ability to see patterns, when they occur.
     
  5. Apr 5, 2015 #4

    symbolipoint

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    One more comment:
    I myself rarely, maybe never, translate any algebraic or arithmetic expression or statement into English from the symbolism. I READ what I see, in symbols!
     
  6. Apr 5, 2015 #5

    NascentOxygen

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    I read maths aloud (in my mind) as precisely worded perfect English grammar, and I encourage my students to work towards this as their goal. It has served me well through both under- and post-graduate Maths studies.
     
  7. Apr 5, 2015 #6

    jim hardy

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    Now there's exemplary rigor. Bravo, Sir.
     
  8. Apr 5, 2015 #7

    symbolipoint

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    Given enough study, one can read the symbolic expressions or statements without translation. This becomes visual.
     
  9. Apr 6, 2015 #8
    New topics always involve new notation/symbols, or a rehashing of familiar notation/symbols. Quite often you will have to stop and think about what it means, and translate it to plain English before reading further. But, like the poster above said, it becomes visual given enough study. A vague picture should emerge once you've seen an idea expressed enough times.

    Read slowly, and reread, then reread again. If the idea doesn't register fully, ask yourself, "what does this mean?". Translate it to plain English if you need to.
     
  10. Apr 6, 2015 #9

    jtbell

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    I'm a native English speaker, but I can read simple to moderately complex German without thinking about it. Beyond a certain level of complexity, I have to stop and "translate" it in my head. Similarly, I can simply read most math associated with introductory to intermediate-level undergraduate physics. Beyond that, especially with more abstract or concise notations that I don't use regularly, I have to stop and think about it, or expand it into something more "verbose", e.g. writing out a matrix product term by term.
     
  11. Apr 6, 2015 #10
    Yes, I try to read math as spoken language, though not any more precisely than needed by context (I don't try to read it ala Victor Borge). That's why it annoys me when an author introduces a symbol without giving it a speakable name.
     
  12. Apr 6, 2015 #11
    Starting out I think you should absolutely convert it to English in your head. It slows you down and makes you notice every detail in the equation. It also makes it easier to communicate mathematical ideas to someone in a conversation! Rarely the ideal way to do it but sometimes you have to.

    For me, writing out all the steps and speaking it in my head at the same pace works well. More laborious but much easier than opening up the book again later.
     
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