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Starting over in math

  1. Aug 14, 2014 #1
    I've been trying to get math for the longest time and I've noticed that most teachers either don't understand it or don't care to provide the necessary background info that is absolutely necessary to achieve true understanding. I want and need to know math, but I feel like I've been failed at every turn. Having been poor is the hardest part, since even so many people are at the ready to waste my resources by suggesting books, programs and classes that often don't amount to anything useful to people like me who didn't get a good public education. Schools somehow gave me enough to be a decent writer, but they gave and continue to give nill in the way of physics, maths and sciences. In my college physics class, they claimed there were no prerequisite math classes, but then they were giving out tough calculations that I'd never seen before and they were grading us on the work. I have an understanding of scientific process and I understand many aspects of physics up to the point where math is concerned, but there's something I'm missing and I can't figure out what it is. I'm apprehensive to check out yet another book recommendation due to what's happened in the past. I really lack trust in anybody. Is it that the nerds don't want to allow people into their groups, so they're just giving out bad advice, writing bad books, and improperly teaching classes? Please take this serious if it seems laughable to you; I'm really trying to figure out what the hell is going on with education.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 14, 2014 #2
    If you're poor, then there are a lot of very cheap and even free math books out there. Some are really good quality. You really don't need to buy a 200$ textbook in order to understand math.

    Also, if you have a bad teacher, there are other ways to clarify your doubts. For example, this forum is completely free and offers free help with homework or conceptual problems!

    How much do you actually practice math? I mean with that: do exercises. How many exercises do you do on a topic? How much time each day do you spend on that? Doing exercises is vital to understanding. Just reading a book and watching video's will not get you there.
  4. Aug 14, 2014 #3
    I don't get why I got a message saying that I hijacked somebody's thread, as my message was on entirely the same subject.
  5. Aug 14, 2014 #4
    If I have time I practice daily, up to the point where I get frustrated because nobody answers my questions. I keep getting so far to realize that I've missed something and I start over, combing through info to attempt to determine what I missed.
  6. Aug 14, 2014 #5
    One example is that people keep bringing the number "1" into equations (x*4=8, 1*x*4=8). There's no need for one, why do they keep putting it there?
  7. Aug 14, 2014 #6
    I won't bother doing that equation over and over again, because nobody will tell me why. This math seems simple, but then it gets complicated with stuff like this that my tutors in college couldn't answer. I can't move forward until I understand the why of this.
  8. Aug 14, 2014 #7
    You answered your own question there. Saying x or 1 times x is the same thing; people choose not to write the 1 because it's redundant, as x suffices. Trust your intuition when faced with any similar questions. If you make a reasonable assumption, and you practice sound logic, it's probably right.

    As for text books, I wouldn't spend any unnecessary money. Publishers pump out new text books every year to generate revenue, even if the the texts aren't really different. Go to the library and borrow books from there. The calculus you're studying is the same everyone has studied for hundreds of years. The same applies for almost all entry level math or physics; any out of date book from the library will do as it never changes from year to year.

    Finally getting confused and bogged with questions and not being able to move forward because of those questions is part of the experience. Rule of thumb in learning, IMO, is: do the practice problems to realize what you don't know, and use the text books to learn what you didn't know.
  9. Aug 14, 2014 #8
    I don't think there's any sort of territorial aspect to it. It's a complicated issue. For the level of stuff it sounds like you are doing, I think part of the answer is that, to the "nerds", everything is so obvious and easy that it's hard to figure out what needs explanation and what doesn't.

    If you need something free, maybe try Khan Academy. It starts with elementary school stuff, so you can go as far back as you want to fill in the gaps.

    Judging from the example you posted, it seems like you may be over-thinking some things. You were making an issue out of something that is probably just a weird tick of some people and should have just been ignored, although, in some contexts, it might help to know that there is a 1*x, rather than an x, like, for example, if you were trying to use the quadratic formula because, in that case, the 1 is what you need to plug into the formula. If you just have the x, you don't know what to plug into the formula because there's no number in front, but the trick is to realize that you can put a 1 there.
  10. Aug 14, 2014 #9
    It's hard to tell without more context. But it may be just a stand in for some aspect like say you had a box of volume 8 and one side was length 4 and one side was length 1 and the third side of length x they might write it as 1*x*4=8 instead of x*4=8 which might make it seem like you were calculating an area (it would have the wrong units).
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