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Where did you get your appreciation of/respect for, math?

  1. Home

    9 vote(s)
  2. School

    16 vote(s)
  1. Aug 1, 2012 #1
    The average denizen of PF has an above average interest in math. It's my preconception that people don't well at math unless it's reinforced at home. I could be wrong, though. It could be that some people discover it in school and take off with it despite indifference to it at home.

    I've put two options. The first is that you got a good opinion of math at home, that your parents spoke of math as a good, important thing and encouraged you to do well in it.

    The second is that your family was indifferent or even hostile to it and you got your interest from exposure at school and good experiences in math classes. Math intrigued you despite your family members speaking of it as "boring," "tedious," or "bleh", and the bulk of your encouragement came from your teachers.

    Option one probably encompasses option two, but option two does not encompass option one. That's why I've limited it to two. Feel free to explain any third situation that applies to you.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 1, 2012 #2


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    I was encouraged to take math at an early age and I did some outside school work and was good at it.

    Around the end of primary school I was introduced to programming and devoted a great chunk of my out of school time to learning it and how 3D games actually worked.

    Over a long period of time I built on each experience cumulatively in a way that gave me some intuition for mathematics in many respects.

    I am in the final year of an undergraduate degree in mathematics and statistics and a lot of this has simply re-inforced and re-integrated a lot of the stuff I had been learning before-hand, but with the addition of reconciling things like foreign notation that I wasn't able to interpret before hand.

    I was fortunate to have a series of events occur and the hindsight to take those opportunities on, as well as the encouragement to do mathematics at a very early age.

    Ironically though, when I got accepted to study Computer Science, I did not choose to study mathematics because I felt that I wasn't good enough to become a mathematician (not just pure, but any mathematician) and so I pursued what I had spent most of my time learning which was programming (and thus computer science).

    The irony is that the computer science was probably the best thing for understanding mathematics (in combination with understanding game engines particularly 3D ones) since the programming helped me organize a lot of complex things in my head as I did more and more practice building more complicated programs.

    Without the many years of programming, I doubt I could comprehend mathematics as good as I can today and I'm glad I decided to do what I wanted to nearly a decade ago (i.e. do a major in mathematics).
  4. Aug 2, 2012 #3
    The teachers I had for mathematics throughout my school life were so bad that they made me dislike the subject (and that's putting it very lightly).

    Only after I finished high school, when I started looking at universities and courses, did I start to get an appreciation for mathematics.
  5. Aug 2, 2012 #4


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    I have neither.
  6. Aug 2, 2012 #5


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    I got zero encouragement at home but found at school that I was good at it everybody likes to do things they are good at.

    Based on direct personal experience, I think your assumption that people don't do well in math unless it's reinforced at home is just silly.
  7. Aug 2, 2012 #6


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    Let me guess... your parents were psychologists? :tongue:
  8. Aug 2, 2012 #7
    Home and high school.
    Till high school, my parents taught me most of the math course work at home because we weren't happy the way things were at being covered at school. In school, I would often get in trouble with my math teachers for not doing things their way: skipping (what seemed obvious to me) steps while reducing equations, not using the standard notation, using 'tricks' that hadn't been taught yet etc. One teacher told my parents to stop interfering in my studies.
    But then in high school, for two years, I had this amazing teacher who turned math from something that was interesting to something that was delightful. In his class math was more than just a tool, it was about ideas and he encouraged us to explore and to think differently. And when we really got something, he would be so completely and utterly delighted! If only I had more teachers like him!
  9. Aug 2, 2012 #8
    I would say neither, but more so school. My father hates math and pleads the 5th whenever it comes up, and my mom has talent in it but had no ambition to pursue it past basic algebra.

    My schooling had glimmers of math enthusiasm, but for the most part it was tedious with little time for appreciation.

    My real interest in math came from reading those popular science books about advanced math and physics topics and the origins of pi and i and e. From that point, I went to my math courses with a new appreciation and it really made a big difference to my interest in the material.
  10. Aug 2, 2012 #9


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    My parents were indifferent, as was I until I decided to go back to school in my mid-twenties.

    I was not challenged mathematically in high school. My school was very small; trigonometry was the highest course offered, and the geometry course I took was all but devoid of proofs.

    Up until a couple years ago, I had thought Calculus was the "highest" mathematics. I had no idea what a proof was until my first Calculus course in which my professor gave the epsilon-delta definition of a limit. The level of precision intrigued me and became more interesting as I went deeper. I found this forum and began poking around; most of what I found was way over my head, but it was the first time I actually felt a strong motivation to learn more about a topic.

    My affection for mathematics is difficult to explicate. I've learned that I'm quite uncomfortable with ambiguity outside of literary prose or poetry, so this is a likely component of my appreciation for the precision and rigor of mathematics.

    I've also described mathematical arguments as "puzzle pieces" that fit my "way of thinking." I know this probably sounds very odd, but I did a lot of puzzles when I was growing up, and the satisfaction I got from fitting a piece snugly in its place is analogous to how my brain "feels" when I read and understand proofs. Constructing proofs on my own is like hunting for the right piece; sometimes I know just where to go and find it easily, other times I stumble upon it by accident after fooling around with a few pieces that look like they might work. Either way, it's one of the most intellectually satisfying experiences I've ever had.
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2012
  11. Aug 2, 2012 #10


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    Definitely home. My sister was 5 years ahead of me in school and was always teaching me what she knew. I loved mathematics. I could go on for days about how it was my favorite form of recreation.

    Then, in just one day, it all changed...

    In 7th grade we were given an exam and I was able to do all the problems in my head. The teacher gave me an F, even though I had answered all the questions correctly. She explained that I hadn't shown my work, and implied that I cheated. That kind of gave me a disrespect for the instruction of math. It was like having a backhoe available, and being told I had to use a shovel, because that's what everyone used. It pissed me off to the point where I would only take the minimum required mathematical courses.

    Though I did still enjoy the mathematical recreations in the back of Scientific American for several decades. So all was not lost. :smile:
  12. Aug 2, 2012 #11
    None of my school teachers were exceptional, and neither of my parents ever even mentioned math, besides the fact that they both felt like they were bad at it.

    I found this forum while looking for help with math, and I decided to stick around, since the people and website seemed to be very helpful. I was thus introduced to people who actually loved math, and developed an appreciation of it even more when I started going through a math book on my own.
  13. Aug 2, 2012 #12
    In school during 3rd grade. But the reason was that because I was very good at it at the time. Then when I learned the difference between math and physics may interest in math declined. But I'm still fond of it.
  14. Aug 2, 2012 #13
    This is why I made the poll: to test my assumptions by actually asking people.
  15. Aug 2, 2012 #14
    I never got why we had to show our work in math during highschool, especially when I could easily do it all in my head. Gave me a disrespect for it. Then I started taking a course in linear algebra at the college, and I completely understand why we need to show our work. Maybe while just turning a crank it's unnecessary, but it's essential for logical proofs. It shows you can logically conclude the answer, instead of getting it by false means.

    My parents both hate math and fall into the people who like to say how unimportant and unapplicable to the real world it is. They always made me do it when I got in trouble when I was little (which was a lot), and I love it now. I wish I could major in it, but like physics too much. School nor home really made me enjoy it. I just got into it on my own, because I just liked learning.
  16. Aug 2, 2012 #15


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    I have no idea how to answer this poll. My dad was a Civil Engineer, I got lots of math from him. But I had some pretty good teachers, too.

    It's kind of like asking where you learned to appreciate the color blue.
  17. Aug 3, 2012 #16
    The answer to this for me would be at home. My mother and sisters taught me the colors. I don't think this is the same thing as learning an appreciation of math, though, unless appreciating blue required learning to paint with, say, Monet's sense of color.
  18. Aug 3, 2012 #17


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    Hmm...actually, that's a pretty good analogy!
  19. Aug 3, 2012 #18
    Home - the only maths I've learned in a school was at highschool, so you can probably see why I wouldn't gain any great appreciation there. Everything else I know and love about maths I learned in my own time from textbooks at home.
  20. Aug 3, 2012 #19
    I'm getting the impression a lot of people would have liked a third option, which is that they developed their appreciation for math all on their own, that it arose independently of their exposure to it at home or in school.
  21. Aug 3, 2012 #20


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    I've never appreciated it, it's the stick between me and the carrot.
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