Why is math so difficult?

queeny nik asks: Why is it difficult for me to learn maths at school?

Hi queeny nik –


Well, as you can probably guess, I’m not exactly a Calculus expert myself!  I see trained dogs who appear good at counting to four or so, but really, our brains just don’t go that way much.


And the truth is, not all human brains do, either.  The human brain is so complex that all sorts of specific talents show up in a million ways.  Mozart could never have invented the light bulb; Da Vinci didn’t figure out the printing press; and if Shakespeare lived today, I doubt he’d be any good at car repair!  So there’s no reason to fret about one subject being more difficult for you than others.


But on the other hand, I know that lots of students have trouble with mathematics, simply because they haven’t been taught it in the right way.  Even if you’ve had good teachers, it has to apply to the way your brain works.


Handsome, the guy I live with, was a perfect case in point.  He was never good at math, and certain things just took him forever to learn – like long multiplication, or how to read a clock.  Then, a wonderfully lucky thing happened to him.  When he was in sixth grade, his class was so small that the school couldn’t afford to give them a teacher!  Instead, his class shared the fourth and fifth-grade teachers, part-time.  With one exception:  A student’s mother, who had majored in math in college, came in every day for an hour to teach the five sixth-graders math.  They used a tiny dressing room.  It was uncomfortable, kind of silly – and by the end of the year, every one of them was doing eighth- and ninth-grade work.  They all went off the next year to other schools, where they were the top math students in their classes.  It was absolutely amazing!


So of course, my real advice is to find that lady!  But I’m sorry to tell you, I have absolutely no idea where she is!!!


So instead, I want you to find out what she found out about each of those kids.  What sparks you.  What engages you.  Are you into sports?  Sports are all about mathematics and geometry and algebra and all – how fast does a ball have to be kicked from the midpoint of the field, to get past a goalie who jumps at twenty miles per hour?  Do you like movies or TV shows?  The editors have to find ways to fit everything that’s shot into specific time slots – how much do they have to alter them to do that?  Are you ambitious about succeeding in business?  Math is the basis of all trade – the only way to ensure profits and weigh risk.  Do you like music?  ALL of music is math.  Whether Beethoven or Black Keys, harmony, rhythm, and even melody is, at its basis, nothing but math at its most beautiful.


Really, in the end, math is just Logic.  There is no such thing in the universe as Two, or Sixteen.  Numbers are just ways we measure actual things.  Once you realize that numbers are tools to help you manage reality, and not some creepy enemy that exists just to give you extra homework, all math classes will become easier, and even fun for you.


One other note – don’t let your difficulty get you down.  Albert Einstein, arguably the greatest genius of mathematics ever, failed his college entrance math exams.  It’s not that he was stupid – he was probably too smart!  Who knows, queeny nik, you might have the same problem!


But truly, the best thing that can help you will be to find a great teacher or tutor.  One who loves math and can inspire you. There’s no equal to, or better than, that!  (Or rephrased mathematically, GreatTeacher > AnythingElse!)


Good Luck!



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