Forums > Social Discussion > Why Are We So Scared of Math?

Login/Join to Participate
Page: 12
OrangeBobo
OrangeBobo

veteran
Location: Guelph, ON, Canada
Member Since: 21st Nov 2003
Total posts: 1389
Posted:This is a question I've just spend some time debating with my dad about... and neither of us came to any kind of conclusion.

WARNING: Huge rant ahead! [soapbox]

I am currently a grade 12 student (finally!) in my last semester of high school.I'm taking Calculus this semester(after completing pre-calculus last semester, scraping by with a 66%), and I'm already failing. So, naturally, I'm freaking out, because I don't normally fail things and I need this course to go on into university to do the progams I want to do.

Just to give some background information on math in my (Nova Scotia's) school system: there's basic generalized math up to grade 9, then in highschool at grade 10, there are four different kinds of math: advanced, academic, foundations, and essentials (from hardest to easiest respectively). In order to get into calculus, the highest level of math in the system, it is highly suggested (and debated) that one must go through the advanced levels of math in order to get there. (An entire explination can be found in this course guide (.pdf))

This probably isn't too shocking at all... But last semester my pre-cal class had 8 people drop out, as we as many others in the two other classes. We thought this was mainly due to the teacher's teaching style, among other things that us kids can point our fingers at other than ourselves. Teachers at this level are often criticized by the students (and parents) for bad teaching, when really, it's not their fault. They have to teach kids with bad math foundations a 10-month course in 5 months. I have a physics teacher who openly bashes the math system, saying that the kids he teaches don't do badly because of physics, but because when numbers are involved, they get things messed up. He says we are mathematically stupid, because the system has let us down.

It's not just him that says this either; I found an article on employers in Nova Scotia, with companies saying things such as:

 Written by: 'Shocking' number of job-seekers lack basic math skills - cbc.ca

The company guarantees jobs for graduates. But before they can get in, they have to pass Grade 12 and write a basic math test at a Grade 9 level.

"About 55 per cent failed the math," MacDonald told the members of the Nova Scotia School Boards Association.

"Because of that, we had to lower our standards, and because of that we had to do a two-week introduction to math course."

(Read article here.)

Last night while visiting some old friends, a sibling of my friend, currently in grade 9, came in flustered because all but 5 kids in her math class are failing. When I asked what they were doing, the reply was "simple algebra". (Jr. high here is grades 6 through 9) When I think back to math in Jr. high, I honestly can't remember what we did at all. The only clear memory I have, is that we practiced mental math (adding and subtracting) and were timed doing so. Go ahead a couple years, see me in Math 12 advanced, struggling along with many others on such basic skills as fractions, much to the teachers amazement.

The teachers stuggle, because we struggle. They can't teach us what we need to know, when they're teaching us the skills we should already have. From there, they tell us that it's only going to be harder, only going to be more work, only going to take more time and effort. By the end of the day, we're terrified.

Not to mention the constant shadow of doom should we get bad marks or fail.

So, going back to the conversation I mentioned earlier, the one with my dad. We were trying to figure out where things go wrong. Not all teachers can be that bad. Not all kids are completely incompetent with math. What's that leave us? The lovely system, which is so gosh-darn easy to hate!

That's right, we can only seem to blame the system. At this stage, most of us (teachers included) blame the fact that Jr. High is a waste of time. When we get to highschool, everything is so intimidating (as it should be because we don't have the skills we need), that so many take the easy way out. Why are there TWO levels below academic (considered "average" level math)? Not only are they not trying to get kids to work at it and figure it out, they're giving them the options to go the easy way out. This angers me. They're letting the kids down, and then we get reactions like the one above from employers.

It's sad. It's devistating. And it needs to change. How? Change the curriculum in Jr. high? Get kids doing math before they know what it means? I don't know for sure, all I know is that if nothing changes, I'm putting the time in, and getting my kids into private school (when I have kids, in 15 years!!). But that leads to the whole "pushing kids too hard to get them to succeed" topic. And that's a whole other rant on it's own...

[/soapbox]


wie weit, wie weit noch?
fragst mich, wo wir gewesen sind...
du fehlst hier

Delete Topic

OrangeBobo
OrangeBobo

veteran
Location: Guelph, ON, Canada
Member Since: 21st Nov 2003
Total posts: 1389
Posted:Wow, there's lots of good points brought up here...

Something I wanted to mention about how this is something that is easy when it "comes" to you - I completely agree with this. I've always veiwed math as being a language (which it is), and after immersing myself in german language when I lived there, I know what it's like to have that moment where one day, you wake up and suddenly everything just makes so much sense. (It's a beautiful moment at that!)

Also, this comes from a story my Math 12A teacher told us - she went into university to study bio - as one of those who struggled through math through school, and didn't want to have anything to do with it. After failing biology in first year, she stuck with math (which she had to take anyways) Eventually, in third year at uni, she got the "click" and never looked back from math since.

I think it's important for students at lower levels to know that they shouldn't give up, because it really is something that comes with time and practice. I wrote a cal test yesterday, I worked on it, studied, and I know I definately failed it, but I'm just going to let it go. I'm not giving up, I'm still working hard, but I don't want to keep freaking out and have this ruin my last semester of highschool. It's the panic that ruins things anyways!

As for the timestables discussion above... I learned this in grade 4, where it was turned in a game, where we would march around the room reciting our timestables in time with our feet. Despite how stupid this sounds, at the age we were at, it wasn't half bad! Also, with the almost rhyming of it, and the repetitiveness, we got it. From there on, it would be practiced, never needed a formula to figure it out (sorry Polarity!) but this among other things (division, addition, subtraction, squares, square roots, and other exponents) you start to know the numbers the more you work with them.

On the topic of teachers telling kids formulas to use without telling them where they come from... I've been lucky enough to not really have this problem. From taking the advanced maths route in my school, it included proofs of almost every equation we've gotten. Including the first trigonomic identities in Math 11A, the lovely quadratic formula (absolutely mind-blowing in math 12A), even more trig. identities in pre-cal and cal (my personal favourite - not...), as well as the binomial theorem.

Each time we started these proofs, our teachers would say for each one (except quadratic) we didn't need to know the proof, but they needed to teach it to us because we were in advanced level math. Some of the proofs made sence, others left us questioning who would possibly have so much time to think of doing something like that....

Anyways, gotta run off to school - double calculus today (yay)


wie weit, wie weit noch?
fragst mich, wo wir gewesen sind...
du fehlst hier

Delete

NYC
NYC

NYC
Location: NYC, NY, USA
Member Since: 26th Aug 2001
Total posts: 9232
Posted: Written by: Pyrolific


I wish I had a couple of cents for each of the times Ive read articles in the paper presenting a correlation as proof or suggestion of causation.



Amen. I find that infuriating. "100% of cancer victims drank water when they were children therefore..."


Well, shall we go?
Yes, let's go.
[They do not move.]

Delete

Mascot
Mascot

enthusiast

Member Since: 20th May 2002
Total posts: 301
Posted:In my opinion if you don't understand calculus it's hard to do any further maths. Calculus is of fundamental importance to almost every course in my degree (I'm an engineering student). Without calculus you just can't progress. It's not all that hard either. I bet I could teach differentiation from first principles of some basic functions to anyone who was comfortable with algebra.

Maths may not be that useful in the real world unless you go into a profession like engineering or research but what that you learn at school is more useful? certainly not English, history, geography, biology..e.t.c

Languages are probably more useful


Walls may have ears but they don't have eyes

Delete

faith enfire
faith enfire

wandering thru the woods of WI
Location: Wisconsin
Member Since: 27th Jan 2006
Total posts: 3556
Posted:i liked applied math...word problems rock
but i never could do math presented in mathematical terms only
give me a word problem and let me know what i'm looking for


Faith
Nay, whatever comes one hour was sunlit and the most high gods may not make boast of any better thing than to have watched that hour as it passed

Delete

The Tea Fairy
The Tea Fairy

old hand
Location: Behind you...
Member Since: 2nd Jul 2004
Total posts: 853
Posted:ditto I don't even think I know what calculus is... rolleyes

Idolized by Aurinoko

Take me disappearing through the smoke rings of my mind....

Bob Dylan

Delete

Dentrassi
Dentrassi

ZORT!
Location: Brisbane
Member Since: 9th Apr 2003
Total posts: 3044
Posted: Written by: NYC


 Written by: Pyrolific


I wish I had a couple of cents for each of the times Ive read articles in the paper presenting a correlation as proof or suggestion of causation.



Amen. I find that infuriating. "100% of cancer victims drank water when they were children therefore..."



I remember on the news a few months back the weather dude was looking at some graph called the 'southern oscillation index' or something, and intelligently concluded that
"there was a 50% chance of above average rainfall"

umm


"Here kitty kitty...." - Schroedinger.

Delete

Gnarly Cranium
Gnarly Cranium

member
Location: San Francisco
Member Since: 16th Feb 2005
Total posts: 186
Posted: Written by: Mascot


A big issue I think some people have is that if you're wrong your just wrong and you need to learn it right. Thats not like history or English where you'll always be at least a little right.


This-- like so many other things about math-- is a complete and criminal misconception!! It IS just like anything else, you'll always get parts of it!

Too often, it's all about the answer-- the teacher is checking the answers from a book, and if you didn't get the right one, you're wrong, period. They assign dozens, even over a hundred problems, and then just run down the list checking it against what the book says. End of story.

In my physics class, even a long-term project or a final might only have 3 or 5 questions. Period. And he wanted to see every step of the work that we did, written out-- because he KNOWS WHAT IT MEANS. Looking at your work, he could tell where you went wrong, and why-- you could get ALL of the 'answers' on the test wrong and still get an A, if you'd just overlooked something stupid like carrying a 1. (granted, this won't save you if you're a structural engineer or something and a bridge collapses because you forgot to carry the 1... heh)

But the thing about my physics prof... this is a guy who did a phd thesis on some kind of cosmic ray. He teaches precalc-level physics without hardly glancing at any notes. He knows this stuff up, down, inside out and sideways-- precalc stuff, for him, is like teaching multiplication to elementary school kids. He can explain it from a hundred different angles until he hits on one that will make sense to the students. ...The world would be a completely different place if more teachers were like him. Whatever they're paying him, it's not enough. Not by a long shot.


"Ours is not to question The Head; it is enough to revel in the ubiquitous inanity of The Head, the unwanted proximity of The Head, the unrelenting HellPresence of The Head, indeed the very UNYIELDING IRRELEVANCE of The Head!" --Revelation X

Delete

NYC
NYC

NYC
Location: NYC, NY, USA
Member Since: 26th Aug 2001
Total posts: 9232
Posted: Written by: Gnarly Cranium


 Written by: Mascot


A big issue I think some people have is that if you're wrong your just wrong and you need to learn it right. Thats not like history or English where you'll always be at least a little right.


This-- like so many other things about math-- is a complete and criminal misconception!! It IS just like anything else, you'll always get parts of it!





Actually, I think this is something that drives history and English teachers up a wall.

"You failed my child because he had a different opinion than you!"
"No, Ma'am, I failed your child because he said that World War 2 was started by Australia invading Poland."
"Well, that's his opinion and opinion's can't be wrong!"

It's even worse in English.


Well, shall we go?
Yes, let's go.
[They do not move.]

Delete

Page: 12

Similar Topics

Using the keywords [scared math] we found the following similar topics.
1. Forums > Why Are We So Scared of Math? [38 replies]
2. Forums > why do people love being scared to death in the cinema?? [13 replies]
3. Forums > For the first time in my life I'm scared [8 replies]
4. Forums > Ok, now I'm scared [84 replies]
5. Forums > more scared than i've ever been [23 replies]

     Show more..