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It is all just… too much.

by KATE HUNTER

This morning, I was writing out my kids’ tuckshop bags and called out to my nine year old, ‘Annabel, what’s \$2.30 plus \$3.80?’ My tone was that of an engaged parent, trying to incorporate simple arithmetic into everyday life.

My husband knew the truth, ‘You don’t know, do you?’

Just in the nick of time, Annabel called out, ‘Six dollars ten.’

‘Exactly right, well done! Six dollars ten.’

My accountant husband set off for work, amazed that someone like me ever got as far as high school.

And yet, I did. Hating maths every step of the way.

Now, hate is a strong word and I discourage my children from using it. But I hate maths with a passion and if it were possible to commit hate crime against algebra, I would do so.

Why do I hate it so much? Was I taught badly? Was I lazy? Is it just the way I’m made? I don’t know, but I’m deeply resentful of the time I spent doing maths when I could have been reading books; or preparing my history assignment; or arguing with Sister Maree about the existence of God. ANYTHING but understanding Pi. Surely that was what Sister Maree’s God invented calculators for.

It’s hard, sometimes, being a writer married to an accountant. For him, numbers make sense. They speak a language that’s clear – unambiguous – exactly what I can’t stand. It’s why I switched off in maths pretty much after I learned to count to ten. I’m good at that, check it out – I’ve used those skills to list the reasons I hate the subject.

1. With maths, you’re either right or you’re wrong. You can’t argue your way out of an incorrect answer. This is something I rely upon to get through life.

2. Numbers cannot make you laugh. Unless you put 58008 into a calculator and turn it upside down to make ‘BOOBS’.

3. Numbers cannot make you cry. Well, they can if your ATM receipt isn’t what you expected, but maths is so … clinical.

Kate Hunter

4. You can’t make them up. I make up words all the time. My favourite is ‘nunce’ as in, I’ve been to ‘Adelaide twice, Darwin once but Perth, nunce.’

5. Maths teachers seemed angrier than all others. Including PE teachers and I was rubbish at that too.

6. There is always someone around to do your maths for you. I was especially grateful when Woollies introduced unit pricing.

7. The rules for maths CHANGE. I did, (oddly and disastrously) try to help my son with his long division but they now do it a completely weird way. Why? Why?

8. Apparently, the ‘really fun’ part of maths (i.e. algebra) doesn’t even use numbers! Really? That’s like saying the best part of cooking doesn’t involve food.

9. There seems to be no middle ground with maths. You’re either a maths person or you’re not. It’s unwelcoming. Exclusive. It doesn’t reach out.

10. I can recite Dorothea McKellar’s I Love A Sunburnt Country by heart. But not if you offered me a million dollars can I do my seven times table from memory – it has zero entertainment value. No times table has ever been recited around a campfire.

Don’t get me wrong. I might be mathsist (new word) but I believe maths has a right to exist and the world needs people who understand it. Hell, I married one – that’s not the only reason, but someone has to crunch the numbers but I’m glad my mind loves words more than digits. I think life would be harder the other way around.

Kate Hunter is an advertising copywriter with over 20 years experience and one Gruen Transfer appearance to her name. Kate is also the author of theMosquito Advertising series of novels – The Parfizz Pitch, The Blade Brief and The Crunch Campaign, which see a bunch of Australian kids start their own advertising agency. You can buy them here.

What speaks to you? Words, numbers, pictures? Or a little bit of everything?

Should maths be taught differently for boys and girls? Join the debate over at our sister site iVillage.com.au here

1. I’ve never been good at maths, I blame it entirely on the myriad of shocking idiots, ah ‘teachers’, who I had throughout primary school, particularly my year three and five teachers. I remember sitting in class in year three trying to learn how to count money. The teacher was teaching it in a way that made absolutely no sense at all, so I had to get another kid to teach it to me. When she did..amazing! I could actually understand it. Pretty demoralizing for the teacher though, when a year three kid can teach better than you can.

And as for maths not being able to make you cry, I can’t even count the number of times I’ve absolutely balled my eyes out in class because I just couldn’t figure it out!

Me and maths are not friends.

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2. I have to admit I like words more, but I don’t hate maths.
Still, I think I can identify the root cause of your arithmophobia, Kate. Just run with me on this – it’s word association time….
Words – English – Mrs Brosnan – fun – arguing with Sister Maree about the existence of God – how many angels can dance on the head of a pin – numbers – maths – Mr Kaye.
And there you have it. That’s why numbers are not your friends.

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3. Let a = b = non zero integers
a=b
a2=ab
a2-b2=ab-b2
(a-b)(a+b)=b(a-b)(b-a)
a+b =b
since a=b
b+b=b
2b=b
2=1!!

Go figure.

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• Actually that calc is off. Second line 2.a = a.b should be (LH side) either a^2 or a.a

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• The assumption a=b implies that the quantity a-b is zero. You have divided both sides by a-b (zero), which is not allowed, and hence it is unsurprising that the contradiction 2=1 is deduced.

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4. A have a friend doing a PhD in Pure Mathematics, why, I will never know. Once I dropped in on a maths conversation he was having with ’1+1=2′ and proceeded to receive a lecture about how 1+1 does not necessarily equal 2 because ‘addition is a human concept.’

WTF?!?!?!?! Maths people are weird and you cannot trust them.

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5. I am so bad at reading, can hardly do it, and as for writing, forget it.

Well, not really. But you never hear people say that about reading and writing, do you? Only maths. Im in that camp, hate maths, am really bad at it, but determined to overcome it! Because i am sure i can learn something and see the world in a different way. Maybe!

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6. Just showed this article to my accountant husband. The situation is the same in this house. Mind you, I can teach maths to my kids better than him, probably because I am a teacher and I know what it’s like to have to break down each little step.

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7. What I like most about maths: Patterns! It’s all about patterns.

I respectfully disagree with Kate that ‘maths is always changing’. It’s not! People just find different ways to teach kids the same concepts. If you have a good understanding of the material you’re covering, you’ll know that the ‘new long division’ is not much different to the ‘old long division’.

I agree that maths is similar to music because of all the counting. I don’t think you have to be ‘talented’ to do either though! I’m a piano teacher btw.

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• As a grade three teacher I have noticed over and over again that often it is the children who are learning musical instruments who are very good at maths. The two seem to go together for some reason.

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• My son is a maths whizz, and a chess master, but crap at music. Go figure!!

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8. Loved this Kate! You write so well!

I’m on the other side of the fence from you though….. I LOVE maths! Always have and always will!

Th logic, the black and white nature of it, the precision….. the obsessive perfectionist in me is just besotted by it all…..

I did 3 unit Maths for my HSC and it was my favourite subject…. I actually miss it, now that i think about it…. It was super challenging but then once I was able to crack it and solve the problems I got such a buzz…

Geek alert?! Possibly…. but I stand tall and proud!

Phoodie

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9. I hated maths at school and by some ironic twist of fate I now teach grade 3 maths. This is great for me as I get to learn alongside the kiddies! I now love maths and love teaching it. I am sooooo good at my times tables – even 8×7, which always used to stump me.

These days we teach a lot of strategies that I was certainly never taught at school and now suddenly it all makes complete sense. It makes me realise how poorly taught I was back in the 80s.

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• Heres a trick for 7 x 8…. Think of the no’s in order 5678 ( 56 = 7 x 8). It’s what I teach the kids at school!

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10. I run a women’s program at TAFE and the unit that causes the most upset is Maths – why? – because, like a lot of posters here, some women just HATE Maths.

Often it is because the basics were taught too quickly, or not according to a student’s particular learning style, or the classroom environment was stressful.. After that it just became a blur and confusing and something to avoid as much as possible. Added to this you may come across other people in your life that seem like Maths geniuses, husbands who may make you feel even more inadequate because you just don’t get it in the way they do, the older generation that insist you must be able to add things up in your head and never use a calculator.

So what happens, you hide behind your fear and confusion by hating Maths and compiling lists that justify your superiority in the more important areas.

But, with a different approach to learning the basics, some strategies to work things out, a lot of yoga breathing and most of all a belief in yourself you can change this fear and hate into the confidence to have a go at the dreaded Maths.

What is the result? That part of you that may have felt that you were thick or dumb or stupid – is replaced with personal empowerment, a knowledge that you can have a go at it and you are capable in the area that previously filled you with fear.

At the beginning of each semester, students complete a questionnaire, identifying their concerns and fears. At the end of the Semester we review those answers and in just about every case they laugh at their old selves because something new and powerful has taken its place.

Who would have thought Maths could be such a wonderful thing!

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11. HERE’S WHAT I LOVE ABOUT MATHS.

738051 upside down IS MY NAME. I don’t know anyone else who can do that.

HERE’S WHAT I HATE ABOUT MATHS: everything else.
It’s the worst. I can’t add two digit numbers. I couldn’t tutor a 10 year old. It’s a hopeless cause.

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• What about my friend 351073?

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12. Okay.
7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 49, 56, 63, 70.
3.14159265358979323846264338327950.
I’m a maths nerd, I know.

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• Well done on pi! i love maths, but I can only remember 3.141592, an only then because of the mnemonic “how I wish I could calculate pi” (where the number of letters in each word represent the numbers in pi)

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• 3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197

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13. Oh Kate! You don’t need to turn it upside down to spell boobs! You do for 55378008 however

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• See? I can’t even get that right.

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• And for 5318008!

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14. Ha! I forgot to mention below that when I was about 4 and still in pre-school/kindy, my 11 yo sister was huffing and puffing over her algebra homework. She was being really mean to me, telling me to bugger off etc. I asked what she was doing and she told me she was trying to find ‘x’ but that no one knew what it was. I took her comment literally…

So, being the precocious child that I was, I promptly solved the equation and said to her, “Geez, that wasn’t so hard. How come no one has EVER figured THAT out before? Can you come play Barbies with me now?”

She was about as amused as when I spilled multiple colours of Liquid Paper (that I wasn’t supposed to be touching) all over her prized tennis racquet. But that’s another story.

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15. Oh how I loved arithmetic at school! I would get into trouble for ‘seeing the answer’ instead of writing out all the steps, it was the only time I had any Rain Man skills.

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16. “… after I learned to count to ten. I’m good at that, check it out – ”

Hilarious. I am the same. I did advanced mathematics though, and now – a lifetime later, I struggle to add numbers together and I couldn’t care less

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17. I never had huge confidence in maths growing up – I came from a family gifted mathematicians, and that has infiltrated down to my niece and nephew who took things one step further and were actually identified as gifted and scare me by knowing more maths than I do at 8 and 10 years old.

But after going through my studies to be a teacher, I love maths. I have challenged myself to unpack my preconcieved notion of maths being boring and too hard. Maths is not just numbers, it is patterns, it is shapes, architecture, it helps us define theories about how things move and how matter forms, it is technology, it is beat, rhythm and musical notation, it is money, time, sequence, position, direction, maps, ratio, scale, odds (gambling, yay), distance, height, weight, calculating calories, chemistry, physics, astronomy, medicine, pharmacy…. maths is all around us, we just have to avoid thinking about maths as being just numbers and algebra.

As a writer, I would even go so far as to say I still think the world could get on fine without written language… but not without maths. Maths is a universal language. We should encourage our kids to love maths – it forms a large part of many professions and opens up many doors.

*end teacher rant*

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• Your niece and nephew would probably like this book that I linked to below – our (female) lecturer read it to us, it’s cool! Good for you to have as a resource too!

http://booko.com.au/products/9780670861941

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• Thanks Kris! What a great resource. I love it. Only shame is that it is American and has imperial measurements like feet, inches, gallons and quarts in it. Still, it is a great way to show kids the value of maths.

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• Yeah, we talked about that, and decided it was OK because you need to know there are crazy people who don’t use metric.

There is one called MathS curse, but I don’t know if it has been changed to metric.

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18. I’m doing an English major at Uni, but I love, love, love maths! I don’t want a career working with numbers but I do really enjoy helping my brother with his homework so that I can do some maths works.
Algebra, calculus and trigonometry were my favourite parts of maths.

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19. i think it’s fabulous that for maths there is only one right answer compared to english which is the bane of my existence. with all the subjectivity how can anyone possibly think it’s a fair subject??
e.g. on a draft modernist story (am doing the hsc this year) teachers comments are “you have captured the sadness, and layers of time very effectively” etc therefore i don’t change a thing, on the final copy “I hate to say it but the sweetness in this story doesn’t quite fit with the modernist sensibilty” BUT YOU JUST SAID IT WAS NICE AND SAD!!! i think it’s completely ridiculous that english is compulsory for the hsc, we well and truly have the critical thinking skills and ability to express ourselves by then. i think it’s terribly unfair as it gives an advantage to those who are naturally good at english over everyone else! if you’re going to make english compulsory, maths should be also to even it out! but really nothing should be compulsory at all imho

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• Hey Alex, I still have flashbacks to my HSC 20 years ago, being told that my interpretation was WRONG. Also at uni. I love reading, but hate studying English, for the most part. How can what I see in something be wrong if I can follow it through and explain it???

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20. I too hate maths.
I have a cartoon of a big octopus-like monster scratching its head with one tentacle, holding a pencil in another and holding a test sheet in another.

The sheet reads something like: ‘If train A leaves Kansas City at 3.45 carrying 28 passengers and train B leaves Carson City at 3.55 carrying 19 passengers, how many passengers will the trains be carrying in total when they cross at 4.18pm?

The monster writes: A. wreck train. B. Kill passengers. C. Eat driver.

Bwahahahahahahahah.
That’s what I think of maths too.

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21. I find maths enormously frustrating. Because there is only one right answer in maths (different ways of getting there but only one right answer) I get really, really cranky if I can’t figure out what the answer is or why it’s the answer. I know it’s in front of me and I just can’t see it. I remember throwing things around my room while trying to do my high school maths homework, sooo frustrating.

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22. I just finished my 12 mathematics course today! SO EXCITING! But miss it already. So much fun, the easiest subject to study for, and such a big part of my thirteen years of school which ends in two weeks.

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23. Maths and I are not friends. I passed Year 11 Maths thanks to my two best friends (tutoring, not copying! Much…) and my awesome teacher who took pity on me and passed me even though I was about as Maths literate as a rock.

I’ve always been worried about how I would help my kids with homework when I am just so vague with Maths. Cleverly, I married a primary school teacher who is also a Maths genius, so I’m all good there. Although we frequently have the same disagreement: (him) “Numbers are the language of the universe!” (me) “No, LANGUAGE is the language of the universe!!”

Also, my father is like Rain Man with numbers. Give him ANY sum and he squints for a second, clicks his tongue and then gives you the correct answer. But he won’t come to the casino with me, so what use is he??

On a happier note, thanks to my husband and my dad, my children ADORE numbers and both have been able to do simple addition and subtraction since they were about two. I hope they both foster their love of numbers – not only because I think they will benefit from the education and understanding, but also because it’s a wonderful connection they have with Daddy and Pa.

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• “But he won’t come to the casino with me, so what use is he??” -Shaezy

You are funny!

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24. My fatherhas a degree in pure mathematics. My mother and my brother are both high school maths teachers. I actually really like maths, and I’m the “bank” in our household. My daughter wants to be a “maths champion!” (she’s in prep) and we’re encouraging this because maths is fun!

I’m a muso and (almost) a priest. I guess I’m the black sheep in my family!

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25. THIS is the best article ever. Ever. Everererer. I too hate maths. I NEVER understood it in school, and I still don’t. My brother understands it better than I do and he’s 9. He can rattle off his times tables like it’s the easiest thing in the world (it’s not, fyi. I never even learned my times tables. Because I. Didn’t. Get. It.)
Hence why I’m now undertaking a degree in anthropology and history – the furthest thing from maths.
I was tutored from the time I was about 6 until I was probably 11 or 12, at which point my parents figured out that all the tutoring in the world wouldn’t help. It’s just not something I can do. My brain just doesn’t comprehend it.

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26. I didn’t like maths at school. I ended up having to do maths at uni for my degree (research analysis). Didn’t like physics or chemistry, also ended up doing units of them at uni, particularly chemistry (pharmacology). At least I enjoyed biology, because I’ve done bucketload also at uni (human biology).

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• Can edit again. I was actually good at music too.

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27. I’m no good at maths at all, i dropped it at the end of year 10 as soon as I could. I’m no good at physics or chemistry either, i just don’t ‘get it’. I know all my times tables by heart though, as my dad drummed them into me and I have a good memory.
My father usually helped me with my maths homework when i was younger which often ended with him throwing his hands up in the air, telling me how hopeless i was and storming out of the room lol.

It’s weird, I’m very good at music and they say that if you’re good at music you are good at maths, but this isn’t the case with me- although rhythm is my worst area in music…

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28. One f my favourite articles yet!

Maths, just the word makes me shudder! I WISH I was good at maths but alas I am a maths dunce. I just don’t get it! A friend and I were watching Honey Boo Boo Child the other night (I know, don’t hate me) and we were trying to work out how old June was when she had her first daughter. So there we were trying to work out 32 – 17 and we both just had these vague looks on our face. True story! I am however an intelligent women who did well in multiple degrees at university, I just can’t do maths to save my life! My husband on the other hand is a maths whizz. We are hoping the kids get my English skills and his maths! Fingers crossed or they could be screwed!

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29. I’m quite happy with both numbers and words.

Economics, though, is the devil’s work!

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30. I constantly tell people maths is NOT arithmetic!!!! I excelled at maths and failed miserably at arithmetic. I have told this to people for over 50 years. Physics, an easy subject for me because it was based on maths, working out how much I had to pay for something …….yuk!!!

My mother often told the story about how she asked who wanted 12 xmas cards for \$3.60 and my sister said don’t do that I can get them for 30c each. And my other sister and I agreed to go with her rather than my mother.

My mother on the other hand was good at arithemetic!!!!!

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• What’s the difference? Please explain.

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• exactly, she told this story with glee it took me years to work out the price was the same

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• ps
arithmetic is subtraction/ addition/ multiplying/ division

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• Arithmetic is algorithms (sums), like the mentals that you probably did once a week in primary school. Mathematics is the rest. I think.

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• I believe maths is logic problems using numbers (and formulas). You can gain quite a bit of satisfaction from working out a complex maths problem. Where as arithmetic is just adding and multiplying etc (I think).

Statistics, on the other hand….. the WORST (I’m a psych student).

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31. I went for a job interview when I was about 15, I was standing at the cash register doing a trial and they asked me to count back the change… I fainted! Haha, I am not a fan our maths at all, I get stressed when I have to add the amounts for lunch order and sadly my daughter is too young to do it for me.

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32. I think maths is fabulous, I just wish I understood it. My brain just dosen’t work like that. Doesn’t stop me from wishing, I think maths people are just sooo smart. At least I can be touched by a wonderful use of language…that I get.

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33. I’m with you all the way here! HATE, HATE, HATE Maths!! I’m a PE teacher and I get told all the time “You’d get a job if you taught maths”
Well Maths and I hate each other so no I will not teach maths! Especially when I come across year 7 kids who are doing year 10 maths (I can’t do year 7 maths!) My partner is also a numbers man and looks at me with pity when I can’t work out the bill etc!!!!
LOVED the line “if it were possible to commit hate crime against algebra, I would do so”
Great article!!!

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34. I have that maths meme framed above my desk

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35. Thanks for the article! I’m a PhD student in mathematics right now, and I’m always interested in how people encounter maths and experience it.

I think the best way to describe it is like this: Mathematics is like music, but it is taught in a backwards way. You memorize your times tables the way you might learn to play a scale on a piano, but you are never given the opportunity to hear music, let alone make some yourself.

Mathematics is expressive, beautiful, and a deeply human endeavour. The drama of Leibniz and Newton! The real story behind “Eureka!”! How people learnt to use some awesome little thinking-gadgets to revolutionize *everything* we do in our lives – we solve problems relevant to us, as people, by uncovering the language of the universe itself.

Mathematics needs to be taught as a way to think critically and engage with problems; today’s focus on vocational and “mental obstacle course” subject matter makes students think the worst of the subject for no good reason.

But it’s also like music in other ways – some people just aren’t talented at doing music. People can read without being able to write, and enjoy music without being able to compose, but some people just don’t like reading / music / dancing / whatever and nothing will change their minds. That’s OK, but I think it’s a real shame that your forced participation in the drudgery of high school maths has turned you off so badly. I’ll do my best to dispel these myths wherever I teach!

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• Wow – if I’d had a teacher like you at school, I might have actually listened in Maths class!

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36. Okay, admittedly not maths… however…

Two atoms are walking down the street. One says to the other, ‘oh dear! I’ve lost an electron!’. The other says, “my goodness, are you sure!?”. To which the first replies: “I’m positive”.

lol

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• My son (11) laughed out loud at that and asked me to post this. Q: Why was six afraid of seven? A: Because seven ate nine.

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• lol I remember laughing at that in my slightly younger years – I’m 36 now. Good to hear the classics are still doing the rounds.

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37. What I like about maths is that it explains everything. Yes everything, god, the universe and everything in between. We may not have the equations yet, or ever find them, but they exist.

http://xkcd.com/435/

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38. Thanks Kate, this is brilliant! I hated every second of maths and even though I did very well at school I struggled with basic “mathsy” and logical (another made up word) tasks like telling the time, times tables, directions, telling left and right etc. Turns out it’s an actual condition, called dyscalculia. You can Google it. Now I tell everyone who will listen about my “disability”

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39. isnt it funny how we spend so much time teaching our kids to read and haven’t authors like mem fox done an amazing job of encouraging us to read 3 books a day to our kids…imagine if we spent the same time reading and learning about maths and science from a young age..how much would we all enjoy maths and science???? now we need a role model and the government initiative to go with it, then we really could be the clever country!!

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• This is one fun book about Maths for kids:

http://booko.com.au/products/9780670861941

There are quite a lot of great resources out there. People need to recognise that story books aren’t only for English!

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40. I feel exactly the same way about science. I must’ve dated a scientist in my past life who cheated on me or something. Ever since I was a kid I’ve detested it with a passion and have never understood it, not even photosynthesis. To the point where I sweet talked my high school biology teacher into agreeing to give me an A in the class (my last required science one ever woohoooo) if I sat quietly at my lab station and played solitaire each day without disrupting everyone else. It was back in the days before laptops, iPads and smartphones so there’d I be flipping my deck of cards for the hour or so until I was released from that hell.

As for maths, I was always a little wizard at them in school without even trying. It’s like my brain just got it somehow. Until I dated a mathematician for several years and realised how little I knew. He was such a wanker in the end he’s turned me off maths for good.

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41. “Why do I hate it so much? Was I taught badly? Was I lazy? Is it just the way I’m made?”

As someone with a degree in Maths&Physics, I believe it’s the latter – some people’s brains just work that way. I believe I’m no smarter than someone with a degree in language, arts, or anything else. We just process information differently.

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• I’m so glad you agree with that, no one will listen to me when I tell them my brain just doesn’t “get” maths!

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42. Maths can’t make you laugh, you say?

1) Pi and i are having an argument
Pi: Get real.
i: Be rational.

2) Person A: Integrate 1/cabin with respect to cabin.
Person B: Log cabin. Ah, I get it, a log cabin.
Person B: No. A houseboat. You forgot to add the C!

3) Q: What kind of tree does a maths professor climb?
A: A geometry

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• Who’d have thought?

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• Here’s another one…

Q- What did the 0 say to the 8?
A- Nice belt!

Bahahahahaha

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43. 10 things I love about maths:
1. It’s logical
2. There’s always one right answer
3. Numbers can’t be interpreted different ways
4. It’s useful
5. Maths teachers are nice – well, at least mine were!! (Unlike Kate’s)
6. There’s no decision making involved i.e. stress free!
8. Everyone’s on an even playing field (you don’t have to speak English to do maths)
9. It’s FUN (yes, I said it!)
10. Non maths people are amazed by your mathsivity (see, I can make up words too!)

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• Yay! You wrote my list. I’m always surprised when people comment on my math ability as I don’t consider myself to be good at math. I like the logic, I like that there is one answer and I love love rules.

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My high school teacher husband (Who manages Maths and Science departments at his school) showed me something a few days ago. It was a short interview of a maths wiz. At the end of the interview he was asked why numeracy was declining. He identified two reasons. The first that it was socially acceptable (perhaps even fashionable) to be “bad at maths”. It is seen in society and media all the time (exhibit a: this article) Can you imagine somebody on tv or radio saying “Oh don’t ask me, I’m bad at reading” It just doesn’t happen.
Then he said that children come home from school and ask their parents to help with maths homework and parents reply “Oh I can’t remember, I haven’t done that in 20 years” So the children get this idea that maths isn’t important.
It was very thought provoking, and after he showed me – my husband said “It’s so true, and this is what we (meaning educators) are up against when we are asked to lift numeracy standards.”
So please don’t give the next generation any more reason to believe that being inumerate is ok. You wouldn’t approve the same attitude if children today thought being illiterate was ok.

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• Good point Ros, I hadn’t thought of that.

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• It’s not ok at all but, some of us can laugh at our complete and utter inability to do any maths. I sat in on a class the other day, the head of maths was teaching and he was amazing, passionate and just an all round fab teacher. It made me smile that these kids had a teacher like that. Not like mine who repeatedly told me I was stupid when I didn’t understand (so I shut down and didn’t work!) Numeracy is important!!!!

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• Lily Serna from SBS show, Letters and Numbers, would be a brilliant spokesperson / example for lifting the profile and importance of maths.

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45. I like both! I’ve chosen to make my living with words, but numbers tell stories too. It’s one thing to have a set of statistics. It’s another entirely to see what those statistics are telling you about people and their funny habits and attitudes.

My husband is studying to be a maths teacher at the moment and he is inspired by the philosophy and beauty of maths (ok, I must admit to not finding it as beautiful as he does!). He hopes to pass that on to high school kids. I certainly hope he can!

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46. Generally speaking, men are better at maths than women since the way their brain is wired is more on the logical side so they just understand the concepts better than a female brain. I can definitely vouch for this, I’m female and maths and I never got along and quite a few males I know find maths no problem at all.

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• That has actually been found to be incorrect. A study was done on this to see if there were differences between men and women and their maths ability. The study prematurely claimed they had discovered a “maths gene” linked, I think, to the Y chromosome. However, the study was totally debunked and a separate study found that girls are subtley told throughout their schooling that they are not so good at maths. There is actually a very large socialisation component. I will see if I can find a link. It was quite interesting.

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• “Stereotype threat” is what they call it in psychology – a lot of girls or women will underperform in maths (or physics), not deliberately, because they believe in the stereotype that they shouldn’t be good at it. If you tell them before a test “On this test, girls and boys have the same average scores”, then the gender gap disappears.

An article on this sort of thing and related issues: http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2010/11/how_to_buck_up_the_science_ladies.html

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• David that was really interesting. I often wonder if this phenomenon happens with women and their physical strength. They are always told they are weak and shouldn’t lift heavy things in case they hurt themselves and so they don’t. That in turn makes them even weaker. I just wonder if the it exagerates the strength differences. The same for sport in general.

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• I’m bookmarking this!

We did an Education Foundation subject where this was discussed last semester, but I’m actually repeating it over summer (things just got on top of me, and I knew I could repeat it), and it’s one of those things where they’ll say “Well there are always exceptions”, but how many exceptions can there be??

I am good at both Humanities stuff and Maths/Science stuff. I probably lean slightly more to Maths/Science, because of the lack of ambiguity and the logic.

I am continually baffled in my course (primary teaching) why people who profess to suck at and hate maths chose to enter a profession where it’s done EVERY DAY. Baffled.

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• I hate maths and I’m a primary teacher! But I can actually do primary maths you see, high school maths…not so much

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• Also part of my bafflement. It’s PRIMARY maths! It might look different to how you learnt it (see my nemesis – the newer way of subtraction!) but it’s still maths. 543-296 is always going to equal 247, it doesn’t matter which way you do it! And that’s one of the beauties of Maths!

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• telling people I was a teacher often would get the response of “primary”, nope science I would say, oh home science would be the reply.

I am retired now but spent my teaching career telling students that science was funnnnnnnnn!!!!! I am pleased to say that many students agreed with me

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• What utter rubbish.

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• Hi Miss Finance. I get that you disagree with Just A Girl, but you’ll need to articulate yourself better than that. It’s a fun post (I’d hoped) – I don’t want to delete comments.

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• Kate, surely the comments policy hasn’t become that strict? Miss Finance said that she thought girls and boys being hard-wired was “utter rubbish”. What’s wrong with that?

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• Hi JM, simply dumping on someone’s comment isn’t on. Miss Finance has lots of interesting stuff to say – she’s made great comments on this post.

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• Thanks for the clarification, Kate.

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• It was an utter rubbish statement though. I can’t see where it needs any further articulation. We all got it.

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• Point taken. I did actually think about the new comments policy when I wrote that but thought the original comment was such poppyc0ck it didn’t warrant further explanation. My bad, sorry and thank you for taking the time to remind me and not just delete me.

I shall expand….. I personally find a comment by someone called ‘just a girl’ (just?!) saying that a ‘female brain’ is wired such that they don’t understand ‘logical concepts’ as well as men completely incorrect, not based in any fact whatsoever and, frankly, quite offensive. It reeks a little of trolling in my opinion and is, as I said earlier, utter, unmitigated rubbish.

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• I can’t tell if this is sarcastic or not. If not, I am shocked! The whole “wired a different way” has been disproved many times over.
For the record, I am female, love maths, and came in the top 100 in NSW for 4unit maths in my HSC. As did some of my other female, maths loving friends! I know PLENTY of women who are amazing scientists, mathematicians and engineers.
Not all women are good at maths, but neither are all men. My partner, for instance, can barely add up numbers in his head.
I don’t think generalisations like this are very fair. I also think they discourage girls from following maths fields as it they are seen as “unfeminine”.

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• Thanks, just a girl, for adding some light-hearted levity.

Is’t it funny, you say you’re no good at maths and know males who find maths no problem at all. Therefore, in your eyes, females are lousy at maths and males are good at it. Whereas, I (a female) find maths no problem at all and yet know many males who they think they’re good maths but just can’t cut the mustard when put to the test.

Not that I’m subscribing to an opposite stereotype – I think some people like and are good at maths and some people don’t like it and aren’t good at it.

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• Read Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine. It articulates why men are not wired differently to women much better than I ever could.

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• Ha! Tell my darling niece her brain is hardwired differently to a boy… she’s doing year 8 maths in year 4.

Research is showing that girls regularly out perform boys in maths. Regularly.

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47. I will say that you can argue your way out of a wrong answer in math, if you show your working you can receive at least half marks for attempting it.

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48. I was always good at maths at school and now work in an industry where I use it every day.

I have noticed that am losing the ability to do ANYTHING in my head though… a reliance on calculators or spreadsheets means I now struggle to do things in my head I could previously do with ease.

I was also a good English student and have noticed my spelling and vocabulary has noticeably deteriorated since I started relying on Google/spell check/thesaurus too.

This concerns me a bit actually…! Am I alone??

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• You arer definitely not alone! I tend to think, though – we have the tools, so why not use them? If it frees up our mind for other, more taxing/interesting/newer tasks, that must be a good thing, right?

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• That’s actually a really good point!

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• Yes for sure if you don’t use skills like mental arithmatic you do tend to lose them. But I think these skills are like muscles – if we exercise our brain like we exercise our muscles we can retain and improve those skills. I love exercising my brain on lumosity.com. It has sharpened up lots of my thnking skills, including mental maths.

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49. Your name made me laugh, i actually find maths fascinating and when i recently bought a book called “The 17 equations that changed the world” i was so excited i almost peed and a chinese friend of mine was gobsmacked and actually said “But your are not Asian how can be so excited by maths?” I just am i am also a words person who made a career as a dancer but i find mathematics quite creative and fun. Plus i was helping some kids with their work the other day and the joy we all got when they had a break through was amazing!!

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