Horrible at math but wish I could be a math genius... (college, degree)

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Since I was a young kid, I have always struggled with math. For some odd reason, I was never my strong point and I just never really understood it, especially Algebra and Geometry.

Even though I am horrible at math, I wish I could be good at it someday. I know some of you may tell me to just pick up a book and work a few problems or get a tutor but I don't think that is the solution.

Here are some of the reasons why I may be horrible at math:
Math learning disability (Dyscalcula)-I have never been diagnosed with one, but how do you know for certain if you have one?
School system/math textbooks do not teach math in a way for all students to understand.
I am not employed in a job that uses a great deal of complex math on a daily basis.

Is it just me or does it seem like a lot of American students have trouble with math? Why do students in other countries like Singapore,Hong Kong, etc seem to be geniuses at math?

Since I was a young kid, I have always struggled with math. For some odd reason, I was never my strong point and I just never really understood it, especially Algebra and Geometry.

Even though I am horrible at math, I wish I could be good at it someday. I know some of you may tell me to just pick up a book and work a few problems or get a tutor but I don't think that is the solution.

Here are some of the reasons why I may be horrible at math:
Math learning disability (Dyscalcula)-I have never been diagnosed with one, but how do you know for certain if you have one?
School system/math textbooks do not teach math in a way for all students to understand.
I am not employed in a job that uses a great deal of complex math on a daily basis.

Is it just me or does it seem like a lot of American students have trouble with math? Why do students in other countries like Singapore,Hong Kong, etc seem to be geniuses at math?

What can I do to enhance my math capabilities?

First, you can look into getting tested for dyscalcula even though you are not in school. It might, however be expensive. There is no really good free online test, but there are a few websites that might allow you to self diagnose

Second, pick up Overcoming Math Anxiety by Sheila Tobias. It will give you ideas on how to become more confident in your own ability to do math.

Third, get over the idea that people in other countries are geniuses at math. They do better because their cultural emphasis is on hard work, not on IQ or ability.

One thing that does help kids in some of those cultures is the musical nature of their language. I found that true for Korean and Chinese students. So studying music can help you with mathematics too.

Start at the beginning. If you have not taken any math classes in a while, you might start by figuring out what you like and are good at and then trying to relate that to math learning. Music and art are two very good places to start. You can start with a basic algebra text, but you need to go through it in a different way than you would reading a novel or even other non-fiction. With math texts, it is essential to have a pencil and paper in hand and to work through the example problems first, then try working some other problems on your own to see if you understood what was being taught. If you think you will need help, you might try a course at a nearby junior college. Ask them to test you to see what course you should begin with. There are online tutoring websites. There are also some decent software programs that might help. A tutor may help too.

You might look at Singapore Math's algebra texts, but since there is no answer key, it might be difficult without a teacher or guide who understands the work.

One you probably could work through on your own is the Key to Algebra and Key to Geometry books from Key Curriculum Press. If you are weak in basic math, they have a whole series of elementary workbooks as well.

It sounds more like you may be math phobic. You hear the word "Math" and your brain goes into freeze mode. This does not mean you can never learn math, but, you will need a teacher who will go slowly and show you that, inspite of your phobia, math is logical, it follows prescribed rules and is downright predictable, unlike the laws of grammar, for which every rule has at least 6 exceptions, math does not have these exceptions, rule one A = A, or, everything is equal to itself. rule two A+B = B+A, two numbers added together will equal the same thing regardless of which number you add to the other, or, 3+4 = 7 as does 4+3 = 7 ------- or 3+4 = 4+3 Math follows the same rules without exception, there is no exception to the rules, A=A is always true.

I was very much like you. I remember struggling with math from 4th grade. I even volunteered myself to go to summer school for math at that time (which was a total waste of time, it was horrendous). This continued all through high school. It wasn't until college that I began to have a different view of it.

The first was a general math class where I finally learned how to prove the Pythagorean theorem. I then realized that much of my math education failed to teach me the "why" of math. It was rote learning but I needed understanding. My second breakthrough was reading Liping Ma's "Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics" which showed the difference in the ways Chinese and American teachers teach math. I strongly recommend you read it.

I then embarked on my own informal research of math education in this country and came across a wonderful set of books from the Art of Problem Solving. AoPS Curriculum

They are being marketed towards gifted students and students preparing for Math Olympiads, but honestly this is the way math should be taught and these books should be used in classrooms throughout the U.S. as a supplement if not as a main textbook. I started with the Number Theory book.

Another book that helped me is Kaplan's GMAT Math Workbook, it's better than many of the other books out there because it teaches you concepts behind the math.

"Math Word Problems Demystified" is another helpful book.

There's also Khan Academy which is instructional math videos online for Math (Bill Gates recommends this site. He donated a bunch of money to it).

Beyond books you just have to work really hard on it. Dorothy is right. Cultures that do well overall on math have an emphasis on hard work unlike Western culture which believes innate ability is responsible for academic success.

Get some books, and be prepared to work. Stick to it, even when you get frustrated. Studies have shown that struggling through a problem actually helps you learn.

I agree with Dusty. It sounds like you may be math phobic. Try telling yourself that rather than being difficult, math is really one of the easiest subjects around. If this sound ridiculous, consider algebra. More often than not once you have arrived at an answer you can plug it into the original question and make sure it checks out. You can be certain you have the right answer before even turning in your test. What other subject offers this luxury? It almost feels like cheating.

There are a lot of bad math teachers in the world. Maybe you had some of them. If so, your struggles may have more to do with them than you. If that's the case, throwing out your old prejudices about math being hard, starting fresh, and taking it slow might be more beneficial than you think.

I agree with Dusty. It sounds like you may be math phobic. Try telling yourself that rather than being difficult, math is really one of the easiest subjects around. If this sound ridiculous, consider algebra. More often than not once you have arrived at an answer you can plug it into the original question and make sure it checks out. You can be certain you have the right answer before even turning in your test. What other subject offers this luxury? It almost feels like cheating.

One of the most gifted students in my son's class came home in 6th grade when she started algebra and said: "Mom, this algebra stuff is cheating. The answer just falls out of the equations when you solve them."

I did well in math at school (got b's and a's), but think I could have done much better if I had learned it this way.

Look at the different steps between the US method and the Singapore method. There are more rules to remember in the US, and more potential for mistakes. The singapore method is more visual and logical.

I did well in math at school (got b's and a's), but think I could have done much better if I had learned it this way.

Look at the different steps between the US method and the Singapore method. There are more rules to remember in the US, and more potential for mistakes. The singapore method is more visual and logical.

Singapore math does not cover all the concepts of algebra and the algebra book does not have a teacher guide or answer key, so it might not help someone trying to learn without a teacher.

Since I was a young kid, I have always struggled with math. For some odd reason, I was never my strong point and I just never really understood it, especially Algebra and Geometry.

Even though I am horrible at math, I wish I could be good at it someday. I know some of you may tell me to just pick up a book and work a few problems or get a tutor but I don't think that is the solution.

Here are some of the reasons why I may be horrible at math:
Math learning disability (Dyscalcula)-I have never been diagnosed with one, but how do you know for certain if you have one?
School system/math textbooks do not teach math in a way for all students to understand.
I am not employed in a job that uses a great deal of complex math on a daily basis.

Is it just me or does it seem like a lot of American students have trouble with math? Why do students in other countries like Singapore,Hong Kong, etc seem to be geniuses at math?

What can I do to enhance my math capabilities?

Any manager can tell you that getting people to do what you want is 98% expectations. If you expect math to be hard (and we sell that message here) it will be. In other countries, they just knuckle down and do it because it's what's expected. It's their attitude about math that is different.

I wouldn't say I was necessarily bad at it, but I tended to excel from basic arithmetic on up to intermediate algebra due to:
-slow-talking teachers.
-the use of notes/or study aides(ie., formula examples being placed at the top of the tests)
-multiple-choice tests
-and of course, small class sizes.

However, I last passed intermediate algebra in '06 and then continued again with college algebra in '08-onward.
This time around, the instructors are quicker, the class-sizes larger, and almost no study aides were there to help me NOT mix formulas up and destroy an entire problem on the test.
I've studied via repeating textbook formulas and questions, but the knowledge never seems to stay in my head come test-time.
There are tutors there, but being students themselves, I'm uncertain of whether they're able to relay the information just as good as a normal instructor.

Say what you will about multiple-choice, but I actually retain quite a bit of knowledge from those.

As for wanting to know higher math, I'm leaning towards a science/engineering heavy degree that could be used towards something I'm actually interested in.
That and my trucking-career seems to have been stopped dead in its tracks for the past 3 years.

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