Chalisque, I envy you and all the others who can enjoy math. Actually, I did enjoy math once. It was in a class of Modern Math for elementary teachers. We were exposed to concepts like set theory and number theory. I had been apprehensive about taking the class because of my bad experiences in school math, but I understood everything the professor taught us and received a high mark for the course.
Afterwards I asked him how it was possible for me, the kid who had failed all her math courses, who still did not know her times tables and who still had to count on her fingers, who could never remember which fraction you invert when, how this same person could have enjoyed and aced his course, which many other mathophobes had dropped out of.
How could I have ever understood and enjoyed a course in modern math?
His reply: "In grade school and high school they were teaching you arithmetic, which machines can do. I was teaching you mathematics, which are concepts only the human mind can comprehend!"
This is why the educational system in the USA is failing, because arithmetic is taught by teachers fresh out of school with only a general BA and no special aptitude in mathematics. None of them could ever reach my mind.
Years later I was telling this story to someone who had graduated from the same university where my modern math professor taught and my listener told me: "Oh yes! He was one of our best teachers!"
Only specialists should teach children.
Yes, I agree that Math is fun! All the branches of Mathematics are interesting and beautiful. My husband is a math major, and I have had the privilege of sitting in on many wonderful discussions of mathematics, physics, cosmology, geometry and so forth. I also enjoyed the introduction to number theory and set theory I received in the "Modern Math for Elementary Teachers" course I took for my K through adult teaching credential.
Yet I have never been allowed to study higher mathematics because I could not master grade school arithmetic. By the end of eighth grade I still did not know my multiplication tables and I still was counting on my fingers.
In high school I was not allowed to take the usual lab science courses because I had not completed algebra 2 and trigonometry. I got a C minus in algebra 1 and a D in Geometry. I dropped out of algebra 2 and tried to take a make up course in summer school, but was asked to leave the class because I was "holding back the others"!
In college, which was a small liberal arts school, I was offered no math and no real science, only three lecture courses. I was not allowed to take any science courses because of my lack of high school arithmetic.
Because of my dyslexia, I could not touch type fast enough for secretarial jobs but was "overqualified" for filing and phones. Because I did not have an MA, I could not teach any of the liberal arts subjects I had studied in college.
Except for a few years of teaching and substitute teaching in elementary school, which did not suit my personality, I have never had a job that requires a college degree. I have been consistently under employed and under paid, and have worked with and under the supervision of persons younger and less educated than I am. I have worked physical labor, blue collar, assembly, driving, landscaping, home health care, switchboard, janitorial, housework, child care.
When I joined social groups where I might meet professionals, I frequently was avoided as soon as they learned what my work was.
Ironically, when I first took a grade school teaching job, my family and friends were disappointed; they thought it beneath me because of my high IQ, 98th percentile, yet I never got a job paying as well as teaching afterwards!
I received several IQ and psychological tests as a child and young adult because of my underachieving, but back then in the 50s and early 60s) family and school did not know about depression, ADD, Asperger's Syndrome, and dyslexia, including dyscalculia. I was just a troublesome person who did not fit in anywhere.
As an adult I have tried to take various elementary arithmetic courses, surveying, trigonometry, GIS systems, computer graphics, CNC, to make myself more employable, but I am unable to learn and follow in a classroom setting and I am unable to study in the noisy, talking study areas and computer labs currently available at the local community colleges.
Over the last decade, as I read most of the recently published stories of people with autism, Asperger's, ADD, dyslexia, and dyscalculia, I finally recognized myself and my husband as belonging in those categories. I managed to find psychologists specializing in the spectrum (ASD) and received a diagnosis. I also went to DVR to qualify for accommodations in the classroom, but the schools will still not give me a quiet place to study. They are catering to what they consider the new, young, plugged-in, multi-tasking generation. I wonder what will become of the new generation of dyslexics and ADD sufferers?
When I was puzzled by my unexpected success and enjoyment of the course in "Modern Math for Elementary Teachers", the professor explained it to me thusly: "In elementary and high school they were only teaching you Arithmetic, which machines can do; I was teaching you Mathematics, which requires the human mind!"
Temple Grandin feels that it was a mistake for her to stop her high school arithmetic studies when she was failing them, because she could have done higher mathematics with ease. Thomas West in his book "In the Mind's Eye" Prometheus, 1997, gives several examples of persons who could not do high school arithmetic, yet were successful in higher mathematics, including: Faraday, Maxwell, Einstein, Dodgson, Poincare, Edison, Tesla.
Because of my misery in school and the crippling and stunting of my personal and professional life because of school difficulties, I have a very negative evaluation of schooling as it is inflicted today, and of arithmetic studies as they were inflicted on me and as they are still being required for testing and further schooling.
It is a vicious circle saying "you need to learn multiplication tables or square roots because you will need them in some other arithmetic or profession". During my miserable years of trying to find a better job or prepare myself for some better profession, I took several courses in self-evaluation, received career counseling, and filled out aptitude and interest tests and inventories. My interests always came back to science and engineering,but of course I could not take any of those classes.
I personally interviewed two dozen working, degreed and certificated scientists and engineers in various fields asking them how many arithmetic courses they had taken to receive their diplomas, and how many of those courses they used currently in their work. All but one answered that in fact they did not use any of those courses any more. When they needed a computation or calculation or exact quantity, they consulted their sliderules, slipsticks, calculators, computers, charts, graphs, tables and formulas. Sometimes they would farm out special data analysis to a specialist in that field. Several of them admitted that they would not be able to recite the multiplication tables or derive a square root with paper and pencil.
So, even though many of you feel that "Math is Fun!" (for you), I say it is not right to require your level of ease and flexibility with arithmetic as a proof of intelligence and a badge of accomplishment and education.
I believe that arithmetic and mathematics should be introduced and offered to everyone who requests it whenever they find they have a need for it, or if they truly enjoy it. About schooling I recommend rereading and old book from the seventies by Ivan Illich titled "Deschooling Society". The title says it all. Education should be lifelong and continuous, not inflicted exclusively on young persons to the detriment of all their other developmental tasks, and not used as a badge of superiority and a class distinction.