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  1. #1
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    Dec 2007
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    getting over math phobia

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    hello, my name is badger, and I have a math phobia.

    I am wanting to become friends with numbers; I think math can be really fun if you understand it, but alas, I don't. I did take remedial math for university students who had difficulty with highschool math and want to take university level science courses. I barely passed that course which pretty much reinforced my math phobia, or the belief that I truly was dumb mathematically. I do think that it's a psychological issue rather than a true inability to grasp mathematical concepts.

    I would love it if there is a warm, non-threatening, and supportive class for people like me who want to become more proficient with mathematics. I've not come across anything like this, does it exist?

    I think maybe I'm just wanting to just share my thoughts, because even if a course like that existed I doubt it'll be available near me. And I doubt books could help me; that was part of the phobia, how I couldn't quite compute what I was reading into something understandable.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
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    Central Indiana
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    What about getting a tutor?
    Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Continue to learn. Appreciate your friends. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.

    --Mary Anne Radmacher

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
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    3,213
    wildaboutmath.com and castingoutnines.wordpress.com are cool math blogs. They have some thoughts about math anxiety and just lots of cool math stuff that isn't scary.

    Much of the math is way way way beyond my math skill.
    Each day is a gift, that's why it is called the present.

  4. #4
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    Sep 2008
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    where are you in Canada? I might have just the tutor for you!
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    northern Virginia
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    I don't know of any courses, but I've always thought that there was probably a big psychological barrier for many people who aren't good with math. I know some people have more of an aptitude for it than others, but thinking "I can't do math" -- or hearing your parents say it when you start bringing home poor grades in it -- can't possibly make things easier.

    FWIW, the math lightbulb went on in my head one night when I was doing geometry homework in 9th grade. It just took lots of practice, doing the same kinds of problems over and over until the patterns started to make sense intuitively. And just working with numbers a lot made things fall into place. I did struggle with calculus and statistics in later high school and college, but a lot of that was because I didn't fully understand the basic concepts before we moved onto more complex things, so I got lost quickly.

    I took 2 semesters of statistics in college, so I was pretty good at it by the time I had to take another semester of it in grad school. Many of my classmates in grad school had been English majors who kept saying "I just can't do math." And the teacher went too fast for them -- he really did not explain things well. So we formed a study group to go over the homework assignments very slowly, to give everyone a chance to ask questions and understand things at a slower pace. I told them at the beginning that they had to stop saying that they couldn't do math -- just forget that and focus on the task at hand. We just all worked together and everyone made it through the class. And then they bought me beer after finals...

    Another thing -- my most excellent high school algebra teacher, Mr. Foerster, taught us something that has been very helpful to me. He told us there is nothing worse than a blank page. Get your feeling of confidence by writing down what you know, so the page won't be blank anymore. Write your name. Write "Question 1." If it's a word problem that says "Moe, Joe and Zoey are going camping in Glacier National Park, and Moe bought 6 cans of Spam for $0.50 each," then write "x=6" and "y=0.50." If you'll be setting up an equation in the form of "a/b = x/y" write the lines and the equal sign. When the page is no longer blank, it helps your brain start thinking.

    (Most of Mr. Foerster's word problems involved Moe, Joe and Zoey going camping in Glacier National Park with many cans of Spam. If he ever became ruler of the world, he planned to make Glacier National Park the capital. I can't remember what I did at work yesterday, but I will never forget that.)

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  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Central Indiana
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    I did okay in high school with Algebra and Geometry, but really struggled with Trig. My parents got a tutor from a local university (I think he was a math grad student) for me who was exceedingly patient. He helped me gain a lot more confidence. By the time I took Calculus, I had a better idea on how to approach the material. It ultimately clicked. I remember getting a letter at graduation from my math teacher. She told me how proud she was of me and my diligence. I ended up taking several Calculus classes in college--one a requirement and one an elective--and doing rather well. While I will never be a math person, I am a big fan of working one on one with a good teacher or tutor, especially one who appreciates that different people respond to different teaching methods. If I had to tackle math again, I wouldn't hestitate to get a tutor from the get-go.
    Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Continue to learn. Appreciate your friends. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.

    --Mary Anne Radmacher

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Denver
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    1,972
    I was a math minor and I took several equation-based classes, but the class that I really enjoyed (called Foundations of Higher Math or something equally as descriptive) was sort of a concept/language based course. Not like word problems like Moe, Joe, and Zoey, but concepts like and, or, and not, etc. I'm not sure how to describe it, it was almost like taking a computer programming class that was translated for the other side of your brain (and trust me, it was the total opposite. I got a D in my C++ class, and a 97 in this class). Our textbook was about a quarter of an inch thick, labeled something like "logistics" and it just made everything make so much sense.

    I think a lot of math phobics are people who have always been taught to approach math the same way, and the way math is almost always taught appeals to the wrong side of a math phobics brain. Even standard word problems don't really manage to circumvent the usual approach. And since math teachers are people who "got" math, they can't see how to teach it any differently than what works for them.

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  8. #8
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    Nov 2007
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    Western Canada-prairies, mountain & ocean
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    I recognize my math skills aren't much simply because that's not my skill at area at all.

    I view it for myself as not a phobia, but my natural, stronger skills are somewhere else outside of mathematics. After all, most of my siblings were taking university level courses in university applied science programs. That has always been my benchmark, since they seemed to pull off their high 90's in high school with more ease than I ever could.

    I actually avoided taking any math courses in my final year of high school: simply because I knew that my university program and coursework choice was not going to be in the applied sciences at all.

    Then for my graduate degree, I had to take a statistics course which was awful for me.

    Anyway, badger I simply work abit harder over the years to balance and report on large annual operating budgets where I had signing authority, at least do basic departmental statistical analyses and generate the right Excel graphs, etc. Knowing what to do with the math, yes most definitely affects what I have been able to do in my jobs. Not a huge portion, but an important 10% since $$$ speaks volumes within any organization.

    My tutor...is dearie..he did his engineering degree. But even he will say, that his accounting-economics course for his MBA, he didn't enjoy it . And this is from a person....in engineering.

    You need to know math more because.....?
    Last edited by shootingstar; 05-06-2011 at 05:47 PM.
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  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Concord, MA
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    I am a classic math phobic. I did well in elementary school, rote memorizing, but the the problem solving aspect of algebra and geometry, forget it. Back to the old spatial relations/perceptual issues. I was tutored through Algebra 1 (got a C-), did OK in geometry (B-), and barely made it out of Algebra 2. I had my only Ds and Fs in my whole life in a couple of terms of those courses. I took no math in college, except math for elementary school teachers (set theory?) and how to teach math. Then, I was in a doctoral program for a bit and had to take statistics. I got an A! Yes, it was statistics for social science people, but, it was still harder than hell. I was in an experimental group where we got to use a computer (1980) to do our calculations.
    I avoid anything with numbers. It's too bad, because I really wanted to go into a quasi-medical field both back when I was in college and when I was looking to change careers, but my inability to do math and science held me back.
    My kids went to a math/science oriented HS, not because it was really a math/science high school, but because there was a population there that excelled in those subjects and demanded more AP calculus than humanities. They were in "college prep" math, which meant the "dumb azz " level. Of course, in reality they had pretty good problem solving skills, but everyone else was going on to be engineers or such. I felt like their excellent writing skills were kind of devalued in this environment.
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  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Katy, Texas
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    I took four years of math in hs- all the way through calculus and trig but the only things that have stuck are some of the geometry about areas of shapes and some simple proportions, these are things that I have used and continue to use. As for the rest of it, I vaguely remember being in the class but...... Even fractions tend to give marginal results, but I am a whiz and adding and subtracting in my head.

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  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    San Diego, CA
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    Here you go: http://www.amazon.com/Math-Doesnt-Su...4736492&sr=8-1

    This is the girl who played Winnie on The Wonder Years, all grown up, gorgeous, brilliant, and a summa *** laud grad in math something from UCLA. This book helped my daughter and me both, because I wanted to be able to help her with her homework.

    McKellar has a couple more books, too, that I haven't read yet, but only because I didn't know about them until just now. I'm going to go order them.

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  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Troutdale, OR
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    2,604
    When math becomes counter-intuitive, I get to hate it.

    Statistics always drove me bananers... Classic problem is "Lets make a deal" problem. Three doors to pick your winning. Hopefully, the one you pick is the winner and not the dud. You pick one of three doors and Monty shows you one of the losers. And he asks "do you want to switch or stay with the door you chose?" The question is should you switch or stay with your original choice? does it make a difference?

    Ans: If you stay with your original decision, your chance of winning is only 1/3. If you switch, your chance of winning goes up to 1/2 or is it 2/3.

    go figure...

    I went over this with people who have graduate degrees in semiconductor physics from Cal Tech, Stanford and other elite schools. It took a while before they realized yes its better to switch.
    Last edited by smilingcat; 05-07-2011 at 10:40 AM. Reason: on second thought it may be 2/3 and not 1/2

  13. #13
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    Oct 2002
    Location
    San Francisco Bay Area
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    9,351
    I'm part of a math grant in my district with a focus on really helping the students understand what's going on in math, not just memorizing algorithms. Why is one tenth times one tenth equal to one hundredth? Why is one half equal to two fourths? That sort of thing. We're in our second year, so it's hard to see if it's making a difference yet. I know it's made math a bit more fun.

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  14. #14
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Dorset, England, UK
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    Quote Originally Posted by badger View Post
    hello, my name is badger, and I have a math phobia.
    Hi badger

    I soooo understand how you feel, I always describe it as having a kind of dyslexia with numbers.

    Absolutely useless as a child with numbers and no better now. Now this is kind of weird but last night, I dreamt I was having a maths exam, it was pages thick and I just stared at it and in the end I walked out but it was an unpleasant dream, that feeling of failing again.

    Now the funny thing about all this, this morning I remembered the dream and then I realised that now I am retired I will never ever have to worry about any more exams or tests of any sort involving maths.

    Looks like there are lots of helpful suggestions given to you by others.

    Good luck.
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  15. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
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    1,336
    oh, I love Danica McKellar and how she's trying to tackle this subject. I knew that she was a smart cookie and was a math major. I was really tempted to get her latest book after I saw her on a news program, but because of my learning style, I'm hesitant in getting it.

    I love reading novels, but I hate reading books that give you directions. User manuals, forget it. I'm notorious for not reading manuals for things like cameras and other electronics.

    This is why I would love to be in a class where it's shown in front of you, or you can freely ask someone how this is or why that is.

    I have heard of new methods of teaching math where you access another part of the brain; I'd love to experience that. Conventional teaching methods certainly haven't done any wonders for me. It really didn't help when people like my mother would say "but it's so easy, how could you NOT get it?" comments like that really does hurt a child and I just believed I was too dumb to understand math.

    I did sudoku for a good solid 2 years, but could never do the 5 star ones. I know it's not math, but it's logical thinking; I'm definitely not accessing the right parts of my brain.

    Anyways, I'll look into some workbooks or those "brain-teaser" type books that I can write in. Anything to get my neurons fired up again.

 

 

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