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Thread: Is there anyone who used to suck at math but is now good at it?

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    Cyburbian jread's avatar
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    Is there anyone who used to suck at math but is now good at it?

    Is there hope? I've avoided math courses ever since highschool (graduated 10 years ago) when they were almost the death of me. I BARELY passed my Algebra II course. I hated it so much. I'm wondering if maybe I just had a crappy teacher (very possible) and maybe I make math harder than it really is (even more possible).

    Any advice on becoming better at mathematics or is it one of those things where you either "get it" or you don't? Calculus awaits..... I tremble in fear
    "I don't suffer from insanity... I enjoy every single minute of it!"

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    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jread
    Is there hope? I've avoided math courses ever since highschool (graduated 10 years ago) when they were almost the death of me. I BARELY passed my Algebra II course. I hated it so much. I'm wondering if maybe I just had a crappy teacher (very possible) and maybe I make math harder than it really is (even more possible).

    Any advice on becoming better at mathematics or is it one of those things where you either "get it" or you don't? Calculus awaits..... I tremble in fear
    Hahaha...good luck. I'm in the same position as you. Before college, the last course I took was Algebra II in 10th grade of high school and sucked horribly...got like a C or D. That was all I needed...so I was like, alright...I'm done with math now.

    Then I take College Algebra just last semester as a college freshman (2-3 years since my last math) and I got a D (with a curve). And I needed a C in that class (prerequisite) to get into a Business Calc course I need. So, now I will have to take College Algebra again and this time get a C. Then take Business Calc. Then I also must take Stats sometime.

    Why I need all this math for geography/planning, I will never know.
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    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jread
    Any advice on becoming better at mathematics or is it one of those things where you either "get it" or you don't? Calculus awaits..... I tremble in fear
    By some miracle I, a confirmed math dunce, managed a 550 on the math section of the GRE. I received a mercy "C" in statistics, and a "B" in college algebra. I think it truly depends on the skill of the teacher being able to teach different types of learners. I took advantage of the Math Center for the algebra class and found a buddy in the class and we helped each other. It's a matter of try, try, try some more. My only irritation at taking the algebra class is that I felt like I was spending more time learning how to use the graphing calculator than learning math.

  4. #4
    Advanced mathematics are the reason I became a history major

    I have become only slightly capable of it only through really, really hard work.
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    maudit anglais
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker
    Advanced mathematics are the reason I became a history major
    And the reason why I went into planning!

    I've always been really good at basic math (add, subtract, multiply, divide, percentages) but never really grasped advanced mathematics...except trigonometry. I think my main problem was I switched from one school board to another one, with different teaching methods - and a horrible, horrible teacher or two.

    Practice and a good teacher would help - you just have to find the right method.

    Good luck!

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    Cyburbian Plus JNA's avatar
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    Being away from school for 8 yrs seemed to help me do well in two stats classes in grad school.
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    Quote Originally posted by jread
    Is there hope? I've avoided math courses ever since highschool (graduated 10 years ago) when they were almost the death of me. I BARELY passed my Algebra II course. I hated it so much. I'm wondering if maybe I just had a crappy teacher (very possible) and maybe I make math harder than it really is (even more possible).

    Any advice on becoming better at mathematics or is it one of those things where you either "get it" or you don't? Calculus awaits..... I tremble in fear

    I completely feel your pain. I had a choice of taking math or a language in college. Needless to say I chose the lesser of two evils and went with the language. So I've avoided math for quite som etime now. A prereq. for most Master's programs is a stats course so I'm now enrolled in an online course to get it out of the way. I can't learn math in a classroom setting, only one on one. So luckily I'm dating a math genius who is kind enough to put up with my incessant complaining. You might have the same problem. Math is really hard to pick up later on in life if you never received a good foundation and it's something that is hard to learn yourself. Especially when you hate it. You may want to try getting a tutor.

  8. #8

    math and planning

    Quote Originally posted by Tranplanner
    And the reason why I went into planning!
    no math in planning? this makes me sad
    I'm trying out planning in a volunteer position right now and I miss math

    if I did transportation planning there would be partial differential equations??? right???

  9. #9
    maudit anglais
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    Quote Originally posted by PutSaltInYourEyes
    if I did transportation planning there would be partial differential equations??? right???
    Uh...I actually don't know what that is

    The math-lovers in transportation planning tend to go into the travel forecasting (transportation modelling) end of things. I use math all the time in my work - but it is limited to statistical analysis and basic addition, etc.

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    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    If I was good at math I wouldn't be a planner. I would have been a hydrologist or some other kind of water scientist. Math to me is from another world.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  11. #11
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    I was never very bad at math ( I just didn't care to try hard). I avoided it, when possible, after 10th grade, because I knew I wouldn't need anything beyond algebra and geometry in my life. I did have to take stats for my MUP, and that was hardly bearable. Luckily, my stats instructor was sensible enough to allow us to use our textbooks for the final exam.

    But.....calculus......no friggin' way.......
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jread
    Is there hope? I've avoided math courses ever since highschool (graduated 10 years ago) when they were almost the death of me. I BARELY passed my Algebra II course. I hated it so much. I'm wondering if maybe I just had a crappy teacher (very possible) and maybe I make math harder than it really is (even more possible).

    Any advice on becoming better at mathematics or is it one of those things where you either "get it" or you don't? Calculus awaits..... I tremble in fear
    No, I never sucked at math. In fact, I was inducted into Mu Alpha Theta (a college level math honor society) at age 16 in 11th grade (the earliest you can be inducted). However, my husband and oldest son both suck at math and I managed to help both of them in that area (tutored my husband in two college classes and homeschooled our sons). So, you might find it worthwhile to zip over to my homeschooling website and look at some of the resources I used for math with my kids. (Michele's Math Files) I used a conceptual approach in part because when I returned to college in my 30's and couldn't remember what ever last squiggle meant, I still remembered the concepts and that stood me in very good stead. My oldest will never be good at crunching numbers but he is now more fluent with the concepts than most folks I meet.

    The main thing I would suggest is that you supplement your classroom textbook and assignments with some book (or video tape or whatever) which makes more sense to you than the materials used in class. Classroom textbooks are designed for the convenience of the teacher with 30 students who needs to grade all those papers more than they are for the conveniece of those students. My observation is that most planners and GIS people are visual-spatial thinkers and textbooks are geared towards the linear thinkers that dominate the teachng profession. I haven't used a traditional math text book with my kids in a long time, both of whom are visual-spatial thinkers. But I found some of our homeschooling resources on the shelf of a "math geek" (who majored in it) during some social event. He had a copy of the book "A tour of the calculus" for recreational reading, something I had for my sons as well. You could pick that book up now and begin trying to read it a little at a time. There are few numbers in it but lots of interesting insights.

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    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Math was always my worst subject. I still took four years of it in high school, and in college I considered a passing grade to be an accomplishment worth drinking over. Then something wierd happened. I took my third statistics course in grad school. It was dreaded by all not only for the content, but for the brilliant instructor (intimidating). Somehow I got the second-best grade in the class (we had a student from China in our class). A couple years later, as I looked at a paper map and began to try figuring out how large an area was, my high school trigonometry came back to me. It was scary.
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    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    Math was always my worst subject. I still took four years of it in high school, and in college I considered a passing grade to be an accomplishment worth drinking over. Then something wierd happened. I took my third statistics course in grad school. It was dreaded by all not only for the content, but for the brilliant instructor (intimidating). Somehow I got the second-best grade in the class (we had a student from China in our class). A couple years later, as I looked at a paper map and began to try figuring out how large an area was, my high school trigonometry came back to me. It was scary.
    Relating the math to a map -- a very visual-spatial thing -- would make more sense to a visual-spatial thinker than relating it to formulas and calculations. Linear thinkers are "parts-to-whole" learners and cannot grasp the big picture without first having all the pieces in place. Visual-spatial thinkers are "whole-to-parts" learners and cannot effectively understand the pieces until they have a context for those pieces. To me, it sounds like you finally had enough context and enough of the big picture to give meaning to the pieces. None of that particularly surprises me. It is exactly the approach I used for teaching my "math dummy" son concepts of statistics, calculus, etc.

    FWIW: It's actually fairly common in gifted kids that higher level math makes more sense to them than more basic math. I think this is probably because most kids (I have heard "70%") who are identified as "gifted" are visual-spatial while basic math is very linear. (As an aside: the majority of elementary school teachers are math-phobic, which tends to make kids intimidated and that usually sticks with them well into adulthood.)

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    ?

    So how much math is actually involved in planning? I'm in the boat of not liking math but then again, I never really tried. For example, I took several Stats courses in my undergrad years. I never studied and never did the homework assignments and I got a C- each time. Granted the classes were graded on a curve but I just never cared for it. On a daily basis, does planning invlove Calcu. , Trig., and other "I could do without" math problems?

  16. #16
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by GilbyDM101
    So how much math is actually involved in planning? I'm in the boat of not liking math but then again, I never really tried. For example, I took several Stats courses in my undergrad years. I never studied and never did the homework assignments and I got a C- each time. Granted the classes were graded on a curve but I just never cared for it. On a daily basis, does planning invlove Calcu. , Trig., and other "I could do without" math problems?
    I've never used calculus and don't recall ever using trig. since I began work. I use algebra, statistics and geometry/trig on almost a daily basis. Transportation planners are more apt to get into the "ugly" higher level math like calculus. Long range folks like me tend to work a lot more in statistics. The one thing I'll say about stats is that its not just about working the problems--its about critically analyzing other people's works. You should be able to calculate statistics, but I'd say its almost more important to be able to find the lies in statistics and find out whether they really are significant.
    Last edited by Suburb Repairman; 21 Jun 2006 at 11:31 AM.

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    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Tranplanner
    And the reason why I went into planning!

    I've always been really good at basic math (add, subtract, multiply, divide, percentages) but never really grasped advanced mathematics...except trigonometry.
    In the same boat as this. I had to take basic algebra twice in college, but excelled at Sadistics...er.. I mean Statistics. Trig was actually fun for me as was Geometry. But everything else was terrible.

    I have the feeling that if I get into a Master's program somewhere, they may me to take another swatting at math... and that scares me.
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    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by zmanPLAN
    In the same boat as this. I had to take basic algebra twice in college, but excelled at Sadistics...er.. I mean Statistics. Trig was actually fun for me as was Geometry. But everything else was terrible.

    I have the feeling that if I get into a Master's program somewhere, they may me to take another swatting at math... and that scares me.
    I'm looking at two statistics courses plus either an additional stats/regression course or a computerized statistics course (how to use stats packages). In most programs you will have to take at least one, at least you know it will be applied statistics and not the random bs of the undergrad variety.
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    Totally used to suck at math...but no more

    Hey...I used to suck at math, and now I'm pretty good at it. I took pre-calc in high school and got a C- and the teacher told my parents (during a horrible parent-teacher conference) "don't let her take any more math, she doesn't have the brain for it." So I thought I totally sucked at it and avoided it until I decided to become a geology major in college (I have a BA in geology and am getting my MURP.) I had to take calculus and was so scared to take it, but my professor was awesome. I ended up getting a 3.9 and went on to take Calc 2, 3 and 4, and even took foundations of mathematics (a proofs class). So, in my case, I really believe that it was the teacher who was the problem.

    My suggestion to anyone who has to take math is to not let any concept go over your head. Ask the prof as many questions as you need to...go to the math lab...read your book, whatever. As long as you make sure that you understand why you're doing the steps, then it makes the steps a lot easier. And, if you think you got a bad prof, then drop the class. Don't make yourself stick it out if you don't like the prof. You will make the course so much harder on yourself.

    Good luck!

  20. #20
    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone
    Relating the math to a map -- a very visual-spatial thing -- would make more sense to a visual-spatial thinker than relating it to formulas and calculations. Linear thinkers are "parts-to-whole" learners and cannot grasp the big picture without first having all the pieces in place. Visual-spatial thinkers are "whole-to-parts" learners and cannot effectively understand the pieces until they have a context for those pieces. To me, it sounds like you finally had enough context and enough of the big picture to give meaning to the pieces. None of that particularly surprises me. It is exactly the approach I used for teaching my "math dummy" son concepts of statistics, calculus, etc.

    FWIW: It's actually fairly common in gifted kids that higher level math makes more sense to them than more basic math. I think this is probably because most kids (I have heard "70%") who are identified as "gifted" are visual-spatial while basic math is very linear. (As an aside: the majority of elementary school teachers are math-phobic, which tends to make kids intimidated and that usually sticks with them well into adulthood.)
    YES, YES, and YES!
    I am definetly a whole-to-parts learner. I was ok at math till I hit algebra. Being a left-handed visual spatial person, Geometry made instant sense to me. I thought trig was neat but didn't put enough effort into it. I barely survived Algebra II, and never came close to advanced algebra, let alone calculus.

    When algebra came along, I was like WTF? How can you calculate the value of a term if all the values in the equation are letters?. Why would you even want to. The approach was almost always to start from parts - and I was like, "Who cares about this: If A + B < C, and C - B > A, then A is > or < B?" If they had shown me a real life problem and then introduced the math as a means for solving it, I would have caught on much quicker.

    Taking college Algebra, stat classes and operations research in my 20's, I did quite well. After getting bashed in the head on the ghetto streets of Baltimore for a few years, the fear of being thought stupid for asking lots of questions in class, didn't concern me anymore. Key to much understanding for me was the realization that math is just another form of written language. All written languages are symbolic. The phonetic nature of English just makes it much easier to learn. Math is simply a shorthand for expressing quantitative, operational, physical concepts. If you fail to grasp any in a sequence of mathematical symbols, you will be lost. If you fall behind early in a class, the teacher will rightly get irritated at explaining things covered months earlier.

    You have to realize that many things are taken as a given which are in fact purely arbitrary. Positive coordinates on a graph being in the upper right quadrant is purely arbitrary. y = x + 5 <---- The y-intercept is a meaningless concept unless you accept the coordinant grid. The fact that we use ten digits is also arbitrary. Computers just use 0's and 1's. We use ten because of our fingers/digits. Or 360 degrees in a circle? This is a reflection of the fact that 12 as a number base is much divisible than 10 (Look out for a future thread on this). 360 is more divisible than 100 or even 400 degrees. But they never tell you this is purely arbitrary. It F***ing pisses me off. It's criminal that they don't teach it to you like this.

    When I make the effort, I have found math to be very rewarding. You realize how much complexity of thought can be consolidated into a few scant markings. In a sense, math is more useful in that it develops your logical thought processes, than it is for the specific things you learn to calculate. I'd like to learn advanced math someday.
    Last edited by dobopoq; 23 Jun 2006 at 1:17 PM.
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  21. #21
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    I never got anything higher than a "B" in any math related class until grad school where I set the curve in my Stats class. Granted stats is not high level math but I got a B in stats in my undergrat and had a 6 year lay off between the two classes.

    In my job I have to do algerbra and geomerty, in fact I had to solve for the short side of a right triangle and find the area in ft and convert it to acres today...thank god for the internet.

    My math skills have increased as I have gotten older.
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  22. #22
    Cyburbian jread's avatar
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    Well, I'm in statistics this summer and it's going very well. I somehow have an A+ average and other students ask me for help. I don't know why, but statistics is very easy to me. Then again, statistics is hardly a "math" class... it's more about analyzing and organizing data. The actual math involved is pretty basic.

    Have yet to experience calculus but I'm not looking forward to it. Maybe I will do better this time around. It seems that I'm doing better at math now than I did when I was a teenager (thankfully).
    "I don't suffer from insanity... I enjoy every single minute of it!"

  23. #23
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jread
    Well, I'm in statistics this summer and it's going very well. I somehow have an A+ average and other students ask me for help. I don't know why, but statistics is very easy to me. Then again, statistics is hardly a "math" class... it's more about analyzing and organizing data. The actual math involved is pretty basic.
    Math geeks I know (like folks who majored in math in college) would say just the opposite: that the high level concepts of things like statistics is "real" math and the crap you memorize in elementary school is only arithmetic. They are pretty quick to snottily announce that arithmetic is not real math and snort about how real math is generally not taught in schools.



    (FWIW, my son who had so much trouble learning his times tables loves conceptual calculus and we did a LOT of conceptual statistics because it is Cool and Meaningful and Fun and you can get good books about these things! -- unlike your stupid and inane times tables, which he still feels is a waste of time to memorize. He has better things to apply his brain to. )

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    I was never good in math c in college algebra the first time. then 7 years later went back to college, took algebra again and got a B with out trying too hard, then took trig in the summer 5 week session got a B+ with modest effort, and precal B, minimal effort, finite math A minimal effort, Calculus 4 hour not the 3 hour C+ minimal effort, STATS A's. I'd say in retrospect math really got easier after college algebra and trig. Those are the foundations. The math in stats is par the course, but you have to get the concepts- you can always eventually do the math, but not everyone gets the concepts in stats- even those with PhD's in social sciences often get it all wrong more often than you might think.

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    Quote Originally posted by dobopoq View post
    YES, YES, and YES!
    I am definetly a whole-to-parts learner. I was ok at math till I hit algebra. Being a left-handed visual spatial person, Geometry made instant sense to me. I thought trig was neat but didn't put enough effort into it. I barely survived Algebra II, and never came close to advanced algebra, let alone calculus.

    When algebra came along, I was like WTF? How can you calculate the value of a term if all the values in the equation are letters?. Why would you even want to. The approach was almost always to start from parts - and I was like, "Who cares about this: If A + B < C, and C - B > A, then A is > or < B?" If they had shown me a real life problem and then introduced the math as a means for solving it, I would have caught on much quicker.

    Taking college Algebra, stat classes and operations research in my 20's, I did quite well. After getting bashed in the head on the ghetto streets of Baltimore for a few years, the fear of being thought stupid for asking lots of questions in class, didn't concern me anymore. Key to much understanding for me was the realization that math is just another form of written language. All written languages are symbolic. The phonetic nature of English just makes it much easier to learn. Math is simply a shorthand for expressing quantitative, operational, physical concepts. If you fail to grasp any in a sequence of mathematical symbols, you will be lost. If you fall behind early in a class, the teacher will rightly get irritated at explaining things covered months earlier.

    You have to realize that many things are taken as a given which are in fact purely arbitrary. Positive coordinates on a graph being in the upper right quadrant is purely arbitrary. y = x + 5 <---- The y-intercept is a meaningless concept unless you accept the coordinant grid. The fact that we use ten digits is also arbitrary. Computers just use 0's and 1's. We use ten because of our fingers/digits. Or 360 degrees in a circle? This is a reflection of the fact that 12 as a number base is much divisible than 10 (Look out for a future thread on this). 360 is more divisible than 100 or even 400 degrees. But they never tell you this is purely arbitrary. It F***ing pisses me off. It's criminal that they don't teach it to you like this.

    When I make the effort, I have found math to be very rewarding. You realize how much complexity of thought can be consolidated into a few scant markings. In a sense, math is more useful in that it develops your logical thought processes, than it is for the specific things you learn to calculate. I'd like to learn advanced math someday.
    Boy, you sure make sense to me. I have a tendency to take too many breaks and am doing some work for a GIS class and am just still wondering where if anywhere I may find myself in the field of urban planning.

    I'm curious, given that planning has a visual and spatial element to it, if anyone has ever touched on learning styles as I find myself to be a visual learner. You sure seem to echo my sentiments on math and components of learning and probably to a good extent, learn in a similar way I do.

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