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Why do people hate math?

Updated on September 30, 2014

If you do not like math very much, at what grade level did you being to dislike it?

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Rene Descartes

It seems out of all the subjects in school, math is the one students loathe. Many people only take the minimum required to get through school and hope they will only need it later to count their paychecks. Why is math the most hated subject? Here are a few reasons...

Math--either you got it or you don't. WRONG!!

Math is easily the most tested subject around. We have told genders and certain ethnic groups that they are more or less "apt" (aptitude) to learn and be good at math than others. Though I do believe we are born with a certain amount of innate mathematical ability, the rest is learned. No one comes out of the womb knowing calculus. Even the smartest geniuses had to learn it at some initial point. There may be other factors that contribute to how fast you pick up the concepts, but everyone can learn it.

Math can be very dry

As a math lover and teacher I can see why people say its dry. No emotion, lots of work, no colors, no laughter, no tears, either yes or no, one or two. This is what math looks like to many.

There is only one right answer

Math is a very objective subject. It does not care how you feel, if you like it or not, or if the results are what you expected. It is what it is. Many people know ahead of time that when they are figuring out a problem that there will only be one correct answer or set of answers. When they go through the process (which may be lengthy) and they do not get what they are supposed to, they give up. There is no way to rig an answer or make up an answer because it can be checked and has to be proven. If I ask fifteen people how to fix the economy I may very well get fifteen different answers and on the surface none of them are "wrong". If I ask what is 1+1, the answer has to be two. I can check it on a number line, with fingers, and with subtraction. You can't BS your way through math.


Math is not taught for conceptual understanding.

Math is often taught as a collection of formulas, facts and methods with no real relationships between them or to the outside world. We get caught up in "calculation" so we can move on to the next problem. Worksheets and Formula pages are passed out in quantity with no real explanation on how to do them or what their purpose is. Deriving equations is math, crunching numbers is calculation. Big Difference.

In the early years, math may be taught by teachers who don't like math very much.

Many of the elementary school teachers that are required to teach math may not like it. I have heard teachers say well "I'm not that good in math" or "I really don't like math very much". How do we expect for kids to like and understand a subject that the teacher doesn't really like all that much? The hatred and confusion experienced in childhood will carry directly into adulthood. The amount of mastery and enthusiasm you show in the subject will have an impact on how well the students pick it up.

Generalist Teaching vs. Specialized Teaching

There are many differences in learning between cultures. In some countries, children in school go to specialist teachers. Your math teacher is just that a math teacher and that's all they do. Here in the United States your "homeroom" teacher teaches you Math, Social Studies, Reading, Science and so on. You don't get specialized teaching until you reach high school. By then, you are behind, have lost interest or are frustrated beyond hope. We call these teachers generalists. We go to an art teacher to learn art, we go to a music teacher to learn music, why not a math specialist to learn math. Just a thought.

Generational hatred

Remember the 80s anti-drug commercial. "Parents that use drugs, have kids that use drugs."?? In this case, parents that hate math may have kids that hate math. Just like the teachers who don't like math, parents who don't like math can be unknowingly teaching their kids to shy away from it. They will shy away from anything math related causing a lack of exposure of anything math related to the child. There are many parents who will take their kids to the library because they value literacy, but won't go to a science fair because they do understand or even worse do not value math. There is a reason why someone who reads lots of books is considered well-read (positive) and someone that loves math is a nerd. (negative)

Math can be tedious

Many of us associate math with hours upon hours of drudgery and practice. Since what we think is less of a factor than what is and what has to be, we lose interest. Sure we can hypothesize what we think will happen, but once we do that we must being to prove or disprove it. Again more work.

4th Dimension?? No way!! Let Carl Sagan Break it Down for you.


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    • Spirit Whisperer profile image

      Xavier Nathan 4 years ago from Isle of Man

      What a great hub! I am particularly happy that you highlighted the connection between how adults' expectations really do affect childrens' performance. Thank you.