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Problems Encountered with Mathematics

Updated on June 25, 2017

Finding Confidence and Help with Math

Finding Confidence and Help with Math
Finding Confidence and Help with Math | Source

Problems Encountered with Study Skills in Mathematics

Mathematics is a source of problems for many people. This article is devoted to assisting students with their studies in mathematics regardless of the level. It is not written in equations, so please open it and read. You may find something of value.

Good Students Who Place Low in Mathematics when Entering College

Some years ago I was sitting in a mathematics faculty meeting at a university when the Assistant Dean of Science presented the mathematics faculty with a problem. Many students are taking advanced mathematic in high school in accelerated programs, but these same students often place in developmental mathematics. What is even worse is that many of them fail to pass the developmental course into which they place. The challenge was to figure out what might be the problem, and fix it.

This indeed seemed at first to be a contradiction. However, after some reflection it became evident that the most likely source of the problem could be the time lag between taking algebra and taking the placement test. The placement test for algebra was the first one given, and if a student passed it additional testing for trigonometry and calculus were in order. It appears that, while these students have many mathematical skills, they tend to become rusty in the skills they have learned several years prior to entering college. And, when a student is placed in the wrong class, as they assume they have been, they often have a tendency to assume there is no need to study. This can lead to the low grades that cause the gifted students to languish is developmental mathematics.

The remedy is quite simple. Review the basics before taking the placement test. Once a person learns mathematics it is often a simple matter to bring that understanding back. But how could this be accomplished? I recommend Algebra Review Before College. This is available on Amazon and as a Kindle book.

Preparation for the mathematics placement test at a college may save several courses, and prevent damage to self-esteem.

Books to Overcome Math Anxiety

I am the author of three of these.

Studying Math: Overcoming the Anxiety and Fear

Many students have an unusual fear of math. Frustration and lack of past successes often are the causes of math anxiety.

How can a student overcome math anxiety?

First, it is necessary to determine what study skills are necessary for success.

Second, it is necessary to believe success is possible. This means POSITIVE THINKING!

Third, it is necessary to stop worrying about the past.

The study skills for math require that one realize math is learned differently than most other subjects. Math cannot be learned by memorizing facts. Math involves developing a process of logical thought. The good news is that math can involve using skills already developed. The only way to get past math anxiety is to develop appropriate study skills.

1. Practice. While other subjects might require reading, math requires practice. But practice in a way that reinforces the skill. It is inappropriate to practice problems, if they are being done incorrectly. NEVER work a problem that you cannot check! Reinforcing the wrong technique increases frustration and wastes time. NEVER work a problem until you have checked the last one, or you may repeat the error. NEVER work past a problem with an error until you either get it correct, have looked at an example, or found other help and have corrected the problem.

2. GET HELP! Often there are several ways of working the same problem. Search until you have found a method you understand. Your resources include:

a. Notes from class,

b. Ask a friend,

c. Ask your instructor,

d. Go to tutoring,

e. Read examples in the text carefully, and

f. Get in a study group. Peer learning is effective.

It is sometimes best to go to different sources of information simply because you then have several options to choose from. But be careful not to blend different approaches and add to the confusion.

Believe in yourself! Get that POSITIVE ATTITUDE

Ask yourself, did I study? Did I work each type of problem until I could work it correctly? If you answer yes then why would you not duplicate your success on a test? So, if you have prepared properly, expect to succeed.

Ask yourself, am I not as smart as others in the class? Were there students no more intelligent than myself who have passed

this class in the past? Of course there were, so why shouldn't you?

Don't dwell on past failures. Do you own a calculator? Did you bother to learn how to use it? Delegate the arithmetic, and eliminate many careless errors. With the careless errors gone you should miss more problems and pass, with a good grade. So stop worrying and prepare to succeed.

Reduce the problem length by adding one or two ideas to what you already know. Looking at an example of solving a quadratic equation can be

intimidating. However, realizing that only one or two new steps gets you to solving linear equations makes the problem reasonable. Increase your problem range by building on what you know rather than starting from scratch. SIMPLIFY!

Work in as few steps as possible. Every step is a potential careless error. Fewer steps means higher grades! Higher grades eventually lead to POSITIVE THINKING!!!

Improve you test taking skill. Work the problems you know first. If there are enough of these that you are confident of passing, RELAX! This will increase your grade. If you can reduce the tension your grade should respond.

So, recapping the significant points:

Study well.

Take tests in a way to help your grades.

Forget the past.

Build on old material rather than become overwhelmed with complex problems.

• BELIEVE in yourself.

Math Software

Math software

Why Am I Not Able to Learn Mathematics?

This is a question many good students ask. It is not uncommon for a student to have excellent grades, yet find difficulty with mathematics. Why is this so?

The problem may not be in lack of intelligence, nor an inability to learn mathematics. The problem, most likely, is that the wrong study method is being used.

Mathematics cannot be read with great concentration and produce the same results as reading with understanding would in disciplines such as history or literature. Employing valid study skills that work fine in those disciplines will usually result in disaster. Mathematics is learned by exercising the mental task of solving problems. Reading mathematics is only valuable to understand the definitions and theories, the tools with which you can work. And rote learning, the technique that gets so many people by the lower grades, fails when the problems are all different. Unfortunately, rote learning, mimicking problems that are given as examples in the book, may just be enough to get by in a high school where thought is not fully being challenged. But, college mathematics requires taking the parts and coming to a logical conclusion called the solution, based on reasoning.

The best advice is to practice! Practice the problems for which answers are given, for it is counter-productive to work problems wrong and not know there is a problem. Working problems without checking them can, in fact, reinforce the wrong technique.

With the practice should come the enlightenment. With the enlightenment should come the end to the disillusionment.

The key is to believe in yourself, not the study method. Change the study method and become reassured in your ability.

There are two things that can help with the process. Take a philosophy class in logic. The skills will carry over to mathematics. For a technique that is more fun, play chess. Knowing the consequences of a move is a very similar skill to the results in applying a mathematical operation. Look what can happen if different pieces are moved, and develop the mental process needed for mathematics.

Math Study Guides

Math Study Guide

Support Material for College Textbooks

For some reason publishing companies do not advertise the support material for textbooks. But an abundance of support material is out there. Even if your textbook does not have support material, a similar book does.

Support material consists of videos, which are great for making up missed classes or for getting a second opinion, Study Guides that outline the important material for you so you need fewer notes and can listen more attentively in class, and Solution Manuals that give WORKED OUT solutions to many problems. If properly used, these can be invaluable. And most are inexpensive.

To find these go to the Amazon link that follows this article and click on any book shown. Then type the name of your textbook into the key word search. Do not use the author's name, since these items are often produced by other authors working on contract for the publishing house.

Do you have a greater insight into why mathematics is difficult?

See results


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Please express yourself. We appreciate comments.

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    • profile image

      Jane Cruzado 

      6 years ago

      I'm not that good in all areas of Math but I like it because it is challenging and easy to understand unlike other subjects. in math, i don't need to memorize the lessons.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      8 years ago from Canada

      I have never been good at math and as I age it seems to become more difficult to get my figures straight. Thank god I have the written word to fall back on or I would really be in trouble.

    • hysongdesigns profile image


      8 years ago

      of course then there are folks like me; flunked math from 2nd grade through high school. barely scrapped by in basic math in a college course with a C. Because my brain does not work that way; I am intimidated by long strings of number, any equations with letters and besides that, math just does not compute; it does not seem logical to me ;-) i have discovered that I might have a disability called dyscalculia, but as I"m not planning to go back to school or write any mathematically based Squidoo lenses, I'm not worrying about it.

    • maplesyrup59 profile image


      9 years ago

      I will definitely show this lens to my son. He did Kumon in his early years of high school which helped tremendously. This semester he is taking Linear Algebra and Calculus 3 and says that they are quite challenging.

    • efriedman profile image


      9 years ago

      Math anxiety is an important topic for students and adults. Glad you wrote about it.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Nice lens.Thanks for sharing. strategic planning software

    • GonnaFly profile image


      9 years ago from Australia

      Returned to leave a little angel blessing :-)

    • norma-holt profile image


      9 years ago

      Its refreshing to see someone talking about maths and helping those handicapped by it. Featured this on Brain Matters

    • sorana lm profile image

      sorana lm 

      9 years ago

      Your lens is touching a very interesting subject. I am a believer that Mathematics is a great subject that can be mastered by everybody given the time and patience to learn it. As Einstein said "If A equals success, then the formula is: A = X + Y + Z, X is work. Y is play. Z is keep your mouth shut." With a lot of X, Y and Z comes the Mathematics success. :)

      Really enjoyed your lens.

    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 

      9 years ago from Virginia

      Mathematics makes the world go round or at least allows us to predict it. Somewhere in our noggin as the lens pointed out, there is something different about comprehending math. Thanks for helping to explain why it's tougher for some rather than others. Good work fellow squid!

    • profile image

      dc64 lm 

      9 years ago

      I must admit I hate math! I think perhaps because it is so exact. One mistake and it throws the whole thing off. What a pain. Also, remembering the formulas is just so boring. I admire anyone who enjoys math, and wonder why they do. My 8 year old son also despises math, which is funny because we both have Asperger's syndrome. Perhaps I have passed my dislike on to him? I don't know, but he excels in language, so that is good. By the way, I didn't mind Algebra so much, and I'm not sure why.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 

      9 years ago from United Kingdom

      Very helpful article - I'll pass it on to my grandson who is about to start university in England, reading mathematics and physics. More angel blessings from me

    • GonnaFly profile image


      9 years ago from Australia

      What an interesting read! You have some great ideas here. I must confess to being a bit of a maths geek.


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