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Why do I Hate Math?

  1. May 17, 2017 #1
    Background: I live in the U.S. and I am in 7th grade, 13 years old. I have mild ADHD
    I don't really hate math, per se, but I can't help thinking that I'm unfit to do anything related to mathematics. I enjoy geometry and abstract scientific problems, but struggle in areas such as basic equations and terms. Everything just seems like it flies over my head, and despite people praising me as a good thinker and philosopher, I feel deep envy for people who understand math and people who can be in high-level classes, because I find physics fascinating (even though it takes mathematical prowess). I always panic when confronted with math homework, and my mind goes blank.
    I feel like I need motivation to do better.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 17, 2017 #2


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    Can you give an example of what you find hard and maybe one which you find easy?
    Is solving ##\frac{2}{21}x-\frac{7}{15}=\frac{43}{35}## hard and "All triangles in a half circle with the diameter being the longest side have a right angle at the perimeter." easy?
  4. May 17, 2017 #3
    I think both are pretty easy, but the latter is a bit confusing.
  5. May 17, 2017 #4


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    Well, let me look up the correct wording ...
    "If A, B and C are points on a circle where the line AC is a diameter of the circle, then the angle ∠ABC is a right angle."

    Anyway, what is an example of something you find hard or boring? And why? I'm not quite sure what you're confronted with at your age in the US.
  6. May 17, 2017 #5
    Well, that makes sense.
    I can't really put my finger on what exactly intimidates me (since it seems irrational anyways), so I'll just have to list off some of the things that we learn in advanced math 7.
    Pythagorean theorem
    Area of circles and cylinders
    Irrational and whole numbers, integers
    graphing (histograms specifically)
  7. May 17, 2017 #6


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    And what is it? To memorize the formulas or their applications? And what makes histograms difficult? C'mon if you tell me, I might know some tricks which might or might not help you. But don't expect me to know, what makes a wooden fence difficult on which someone scratched some numbers (histogram).
  8. May 17, 2017 #7
    Your self-description reminds me of myself at your age. Each of those traits that you have listed are good and I hope you mainain them as I have (ADHD was my bane while growing up, but it has been attenuated since).

    When I was your age, I hated math because the math that we were doing was truly boring. I also frequently asked my teachers "when am I going to use this in the real world". That question should have sent them into fascinating tangents in which they would tell me the actual mind-blowing concepts and capabilities that math enables us to have.

    However, I didn't get the pleasure of experiencing such a speech until my first year at a private school. I remember 7th grade math, specifically, for being my worst year with math that I would ever experience. I found the content very dull. I was not incapable of the math at all, in fact, it didn't challenge me at all. However, I could absolutely not bring myself to caring about it or putting in the effort to actually do it.

    I told my 7th grade math teacher that she was teaching the wrong content to us and that I was going to be an engineer some day despite the class. She told me, in her own words, that I was most likely not going to become an engineer. I started crying right there in the hallway (we were speaking in the hall outside of class while it was in session). Not the kind of crying that people do when they want attention. This was emotion that I could not suppress, and it overwhelmed me and forced me to cry. I'll never forget that blow, coming from a math teacher I was absolutely crushed in every way that a 13 year old could be crushed. It was my first time experiencing a self-doubt so severe that it affronted my most major goal in life. I was scared for my future regarding whether or not I would fulfill what I thought to by my only purpose in life (engineering).

    I'm an engineer today. Its quite likely that she owns, or has owned, a machine that I have made tangible intellectual contributions to in my career.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 17, 2017
  9. May 17, 2017 #8
    When I was a student, no one had ever heard of ADHD, or it's brother ADD. I struggled my whole life trying to understand why so many people, who clearly, were no smarter than I was, did so much much better in school. When I was in my 40's, I went to see a "head-doc", because of depression. He informed that while he was not prepared to make a formal diagnosis, after only one meeting, that he was pretty sure I was ADD. A couple more sessions, and he made the diagnosis formal.

    Here's what I can tell about how to cope, looking back at over 5 decades of living with ADD, but not knowing it, for the first 40+:

    • 1. Nobody is an expert at everything. Holding yourself up to others to make blanket comparisons is unfair to yourself, even if you do not have ADHD.
    • 2. Everybody has the potential to be an expert at something, even those with ADHD. Find something that you are good at, and enjoy, and pursue it with utmost vigor. Make it yours - Own it!
    • 3. Make incremental long-term goals for yourself - 6 month, 1 year, 2 year, 5 year, 10 year, "eventually". Reassess those goals a couple of times a year. Be REALISTIC, but also be optimistic. Think about step-by-step mini-goals to make each big goal achievable.
    • 4. Surround yourself with good people. I will leave the definition of "good people" up to you, since it will be different for everyone, but some examples of "not good people" would be those who abuse substances, animals or people. In general (not always) criminals would also be on my "not good people" list - but I have known some exceptions, so use your best judgement, and when in doubt, make the decision that is most likely to benefit you. Consult someone to help you decide, if you need to. (See #5, below.)
    • 5. Find a mentor. (One you can see and shake hands with.) A family member, professor, or if you attend a church, perhaps someone there. (While this forum doesn't always have good things to say about dogma, I think there is not much argument, when I say that there are some really good people who attend services at the their local church or temple every week.) Learn how to ask for help to find your way - do not expect a "hand-out".
    • 6a. Don't give up on school. No matter how hard it gets, do you level best, everyday. It is a fact that most of what you learn in school, you will forget, or never use - but when you get older, and look back at it, you will most likely be amazed at which portions you actually needed (but didn't think you would), vs which portions you thought you would need (but didn't). That is true for all subjects, not just Math and Science. Be a sponge - soak up knowledge wherever, and whenever you can, most especially outside of formal educational settings, where folks like you and I seem to learn easier.
    • 6b. ...and then there's the extension of that.... If you have the means and the opportunity, go to college, even if it's a lesser community college - employers are often more interested in the fact that you went, and finished, than they are with what subject you majored in. (At least as far as the first couple of years of schooling...) Don't discount the possibility of a trade school - there are a lot of people with ADHD who are successful in the trades, according to my Doctor, myself included.
    • 6c. Never stop learning. One of the reasons I frequent this forum is to expand my knowledge. I also read science journals, and when I realize that my knowledge on some subject is limited, I google it, to see what there is to learn. Do I use that knowledge?...not very often, but being a lifetime learner is one way to level the playing field, for people like us. Most people just don't try to learn anything new, after they complete their formal education, and that gives us a chance to catch up! I consider them to be the Hares, and me to be a Tortoise - you have no doubt heard of that story?
    • 7. Never be afraid to fail. Look up the Home Run Stats for any heavy hitter in Baseball, and you will most likely discover that they also lead the league in strike-outs. The only people who never fail are the ones who never try. (They also never succeed...) Most of the valuable lessons I have learned in life were the direct result of falling flat on my face. Sometimes the lessons were humiliating, or downright painful, but the point is, I learned. Every failure is an opportunity to take a step back, and reassess your direction. (see #3 above) When it happens (and I promise you that it will...) get up, dust yourself off, laugh at the situation, and get back to work - this is a life habit that will benefit you all your days.
    • 8. No matter how busy life gets, take some time out for you. Go fishing, kite flying, hunting, run a marathon, build model ships, restore an old car, read a book....whatever you enjoy, spend a little time doing it, on a regular basis. You will be amazed at how much better you feel after a couple of hours of "me time", in a life full of pressure and deadlines.
    • 9. Find someone special to share your life with. (no hurry, you're young...) Having that special someone to look forward to seeing at the end of the day can make life worth living!
    • 10. Finally, get in the habit of forgiving yourself for your shortcomings. Acknowledge them, certainly, but give yourself a break. After all, nobody is an expert at everything....which takes us back to #1....
    Last edited: May 17, 2017
  10. May 17, 2017 #9


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    I think this is a key point. You need to get to using math to solve real and fun problems in order to help your motivation.

    You may also want to do some reading about physics that helps to motivate you to want to learn more about real world problems. I think this book would be at the right level to be entertaining and educational and motivating for you: :smile:


  11. May 17, 2017 #10
    watch the movie Gifted, and then you'll know why
  12. May 18, 2017 #11
    Blop, do not worry one bit. Your concern is enough to tell me that you've got a good head on your shoulders. At your age, I was the same way. I always kind of wanted to be good at math, but it didn't come "as a gift," not that I was bad...just a little below average at the time.

    I don't think I started to appreciate mathematics until calculus in highschool. I remember algebra 2 was the big hurdle for a lot of people making the LIFE decision whether to "hate" or "love" math forever. You will probably struggle, but once you beat algebra 2, the rest comes easier. (I had to drop honors Algebra 2 to go to regular because I was doing poorly. After that transition I was the best in my class for the rest of the year. That really boosted my confidence and I went back to honors maths the next year.) Trigonometry didn't interest me enough, so it had it's difficult moments too. But you'll get through it.

    Math takes time to get good at, and don't let yourself fall into the category of people who claim they "can't do math". ANYONE can learn math. ANYONE. Period. Math is equivalent to a language. It takes a long while to master, but it comes to those who force themselves to get through it. Math is easier than all your other subjects in many senses...I'll let you discover why on your own...for now just chug through it.

    The stuff you are learning now isn't meant to be picked up immediately [It didn't for me at least]. It takes time...Years. I didn't "master" all that algebra 1&2/trigonometry UNTIL taking calc 1 in COLLEGE (after previously taking calculus in highschool)...Now I'm taking calc 3 and differential equations. Not to toot my own horn, but I've earned the highest grade in BOTH: my calc 1 and 2 classes in college, and have been the one people come to for help (calc 1: 100% /calc 2: 98%). I feel damn proud of this because I honestly feel that I fully understand the material (I'm truly not trying to brag, I'm trying to bring you confidence, because I was the same way as you)

    The fact that you already show appreciation towards math tells me you will excel in it later. Just trust your gut, and if your gut is wanting you to like/be good at math. It will happen. I'd bet on it. Just give it time and work at it.

    The best thing I could offer to you is this: try as best as you can to appreciate the beauty/simplicity of mathematics. And if you are not already, try to read on a daily/weekly basis. Getting into the habbit of reading is the best thing I ever did, and I got into it right around your age. It has endless benefits that you can look up on your own time. It might be tough at first, but eventually you will like it. "Never reading is just as bad as never going outside"

    Sorry this reply was so long. Your post just struck something inside of me.

    "Nothing in this world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty... I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led diffcult lives and led them well"

    Best of luck,
  13. May 18, 2017 #12
    You hate math because you are parroting it. Philosophy is easy to grasp. It is also very engaging and stimulates your brain to think on its own. In order to become good at math, you must find a way to similarly engage your imagination and get inspired to think beyond your textbook problems.

    This is something that teachers are supposed to help with. Unfortunately you will rarely meet teachers who can make higher math seem interesting.

    Few warnings: Do not ignore your textbook practices. You cannot think beyond textbook if your basic skills are not solid. Also, math will never become as entertaining and engaging as physics or philosophy.
  14. May 18, 2017 #13
    Can you give concrete examples of problems from textbook and explain.

    Try abstracting stuff from everyday world into math problems by going more and more universally applicaple cases.
  15. May 18, 2017 #14
    Maybe sometimes it can, though. Speaking as a former, seemingly life-long math-phobe, I can say that we are capable of surprising discoveries about our interests & capabilities at any age, whether young (e.g. teens) or relatively old (e.g. late middle age). This experience isn't unique to me. I have been very struck by some of the personal accounts I have read on this forum, including a couple in this thread.
    Last edited: May 18, 2017
  16. May 18, 2017 #15
    An acquaintance of mine has Attention deficit. He started treatment a few weeks before entering a university program and starting his first precalculus course. After the first lecture, he remarked to me, "You know, math makes sense if you can pay attention."
    Last edited: May 18, 2017
  17. May 18, 2017 #16
    In, fact, I can say from personal experience, that "most" things do.

    We had words/names for people that couldn't pay attention, before we labeled it ADHD/ADD. Silly-Nilly, Wiggle-Wort, daydreamer, wandering mind, undisciplined, stupid, mule-headed, stubborn, dim...and many, many more. I was on the receiving end of them, more than I could ever hope to count.

    It was the teachers that knew how to reach through the ADD fog I lived in, and shine some light on the subject at hand that I remember and appreciate the most. Believe it or not, my high school Physics Teacher, who gave me a D+, will always be my favorite. That man just knew how to reach me, and while I could not remember formulas to do well on his tests, I learned an awful lot from him. His lessons on vectors improved my pool game, too. :wink:
  18. May 18, 2017 #17
    Have to disagree here. I find math to be much more profound than philosophy due to its rigour, and more entertaining than physics due to it's lack of real-world constraints.

    I wish somebody had told me those things much, much earlier though.

    -Dave K
  19. May 18, 2017 #18
    I too prefer hard sciences when it comes to discussions and debates, but I rarely catch myself subconsciously thinking about math the way I think about biology, physics and other much more grounded subjects. This happens because physics, biology etc have lots of real world context cues, and our brain functions using temporal contexts.

    How do you bypass this hurdle? Do you practice thinking in math?
  20. May 18, 2017 #19
    I think I'm just a weirdo. :D For me it's not a hurdle because I have always found abstraction more interesting than concreteness, and I think this predisposition is what dictates which way people tend to go. In philosophy terms I would be characterized as something like a platonist. I love the perfection that exists in the purely platonic mathematical world. I also love the lack of limitation. Physicists have to choose the subset of mathematics which conforms to the real world, but a mathematician has only to be logically rigorous and then there is no limit.

    Obviously I love physics and all that, and lately have been doing more statistics as well. But I've been approaching it from more of an abstract pattern-searching kind of approach then somebody who was interested in applied math from the start.

    Oh, and one tremendously liberating thing for me was to realize that there were so many types of math, that it was OK that I didn't really like them all. A grad student pointed that out to me when I was still an undergrad. I found myself as a math major being kind of miserable in calculus, and he said "that's ok. There's other kinds of math." He was right! I can do/teach/understand calculus of course, but it's just not my favorite subject. I like graph theory, algebraic topology and more "discrete" math, and it turns out professors have similar prepositions.

    -Dave K
  21. May 18, 2017 #20
    I can sympathies with you regarding your viewpoint on calculus :-)

    Unfortunately calculus carries a lot of weight in exams and that affected me in a negative way. I have always been fascinated by calculus though. Differentiation is easy, but integration is like a puzzle. I am slowly getting back at it.
  22. May 18, 2017 #21
    What about composers/musicians, abstract painters/sculptors, & others interested in abstract qualities? To put it more generally, what you see as cues, whether you think these based on "brain functions" or some other rationale, would likely be meaningless to persons with different interests than yours; and vice versa.

    Dangerous to generalize too freely from only our own experience.
  23. May 18, 2017 #22
    Haha! You share a very similar relationship with math as I do. It's probably a sickness, but it's not the end of the world. We do differ a bit; I can genuinely say that on some level I absolutely despise numbers and math. For me it was likely both nature and nurture as I can remember early on in primary school thinking about how math (the longest curriculum period) seemed to drag on forever. Also, I found the "mad minute" tests to be exasperatingly frustrating; the brain would simply lock up under the temporal pressure. All these bad memories formed a mental callous that completely turned me off to the subject as a whole.

    I like to claim that's why I got into a line of work where a lot of numbers are more or less made-up so you don't have to take them so seriously. "Nominal" is a nice panacea if you're an individual who's too busy for numerical accuracy.

    Seriously though, there is a large body of research out there relating how individual human brains handle broad concepts such as math, language, reading, ect. One common line of research connects mathematical ability with many other pattern-based natural aptitudes such as music, as well as people above toddler age picking up a foreign language. In light of these indications it might not be surprising that I never felt a passion for language class, which struck me as dull memorization, as well as music which, although I enjoy with an indescribable immensity, I have flat-out no aptitude for.

    Finally, to foster a promise of a light at the end of the tunnel, let me tell you that as for my experience in formal education, what I found is that the further I went in math the more easily I found myself wrapping my mind around it. The tedium of algebra gave way to the beautiful and wonderful ways that higher maths and calculus can describe the touchy-feely world around us, and I was finally able to make an uneasy peace with numbers. It probably helped that I now had the tools to stick absurd values like infinity into equations... and get a result! Does it get any cooler?

    If you're into history at all I would reccomend doing some background reading in Archimedes. One boggles at the stories of such a unique mind, it could change the way you view mathematics.
  24. May 18, 2017 #23
  25. May 18, 2017 #24
    Wow! - 5 years a member (to the day, I might add), and you only have 63 posts. You sir (madam?), are a consummate lurker, if ever there were one! :oldsurprised:
  26. May 18, 2017 #25
    I prefer to think of it as laziness... I'm usually too exhausted to contend with most of the intellectual bruisers around here. Sadly the larger balance of my stamina lies in the physical and not mental realm. I always fought with math but pretty much wrote every research paper in about ten hours the day before it was due after leaving the libary that afternoon with a stack of books. I consider that an act of adrenaline and not intellectualism. Think of it like the way guys are geniuses in combat.
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