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#1 2014-10-08 03:29:04

Durza1315
Member
Registered: 2014-10-08
Posts: 5

Trying to Overcome a Phobia

Hello,

This is going to be a heavy introduction, but I want some help and I don't feel like beating around the bush explaining why. If you don't want to read all this, here's my question: where do you go to learn math that isn't repetitive arithmetic on a page and that won't bore you to (for me, sometimes literal) tears if you haven't taken a math course in six years and never advanced far beyond middle school mathematics proficiency?

My name is Kris and the last time I really did math was in 6th grade. I had an accountant as a math teacher. I was having a really hard time in school because public schooling was not a good fit and I was having some personal mental health issues that went untreated for a long time. This was when I was thirteen. I dropped out of public school and went to a private school for two years, then started college at fifteen. I took a liberal arts degree and while a community college required that I take (remedial) math, I failed over and over, and only through nonstop and thankless grinding of my nose against the wheel was I able to pass with C's and D's. Repeated exposure to the lack of comprehension, learning, and enjoyment in math that was not common to any of my other classes, as well as the GPA loss incurred by taking and failing math classes, caused me to lose enthusiasm for college. I quit going to college for three years. Math wasn't the sole cause by any means, I had a lot to work on personally, but it did not help anything.

I am now a liberal arts major and about to finish my bachelor's degree. Despite being a liberal arts major, I find myself somewhat scientifically inclined. I like to think of myself as a scholar and a realist. The extremely decontextualized bits and pieces of mathematics I have learned over the years - cryptology, economics, game theory, & statistics, primarily - has been a joy of both personal and practical fascination and has let me feel knowledgeable when discussing things. I like to think that the world is a beautiful place that can be understood and math has a clear place in this.

Can someone help me learn and love math? Does anyone have any advice? Any input or reflections are welcome.

Warm regards (and cool forum),
- Kris

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#2 2014-10-08 03:37:50

bobbym
bumpkin
From: Bumpkinland
Registered: 2009-04-12
Posts: 109,606

Re: Trying to Overcome a Phobia

Hi;

where do you go to learn math that isn't repetitive arithmetic on a page and that won't bore you to (for me, sometimes literal) tears if you haven't taken a math course in six years and never advanced far beyond middle school mathematics proficiency.

You come right here that's where. Have a question? Just ask it.

I able to pass with C's and D's.

That is a whole lot better than I did, welcome to the forum!

cryptology, economics, game theory, & statistics

Stats is okay but it is taught by really boring guys. Economics and game theory? Yecchh!


In mathematics, you don't understand things. You just get used to them.
If it ain't broke, fix it until it is.
Always satisfy the Prime Directive of getting the right answer above all else.

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#3 2014-10-08 09:26:37

Durza1315
Member
Registered: 2014-10-08
Posts: 5

Re: Trying to Overcome a Phobia

I'm quite fond of game theory, having been an avid video gamer throughout my life and enjoying 'breaking' systems by defying predictable patterns in very methodical ways to reshape them.

I guess my primary question is "Where do I even start?"

I literally have close to no mathematical linguistic aptitude. What's calculus? What's physics? What's trigonometry? Other than being a way we condense long equations, what purpose does algebra serve? What do I need to learn in terms of math in order to be able to get to do math that's enjoyable? What are good sources of education that I can go to on my own time insofar as books and videos that are written by people who love math who hope to share that love?

I get that these are hard questions, so I'll try to ask something that people who want to help can relate to themselves:  for those answering, what lesson was it in math that made you, personally, enjoy math and strive to do it as something you personally sought out? Not math you had to do for a degree or to get through a class, not math you had to understand for something else, I mean what math did you do that you enjoyed in that moment? I'm not so great about doing something for end result, if a process bores me I'm probably not going to see it through to the end.

This whole thing is an attempt to break down my phobic (really not hyperbole or exaggeration to say that) reactions to mathematics, prove to myself that I'm capable, and to expand my horizons, and now that I've finally stopped just assuming it's something I can't or won't do, I'm left with no idea of where to go next. I'm willing, but to do what?

If this sounds confused, it's because now that I'm trying to do this whole thing, I'm pretty confused about where to go with it. >.>

Thanks for reading and responding.

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#4 2014-10-08 13:31:31

bobbym
bumpkin
From: Bumpkinland
Registered: 2009-04-12
Posts: 109,606

Re: Trying to Overcome a Phobia

Hi;

Other than being a way we condense long equations, what purpose does algebra serve?

Algebra is fundamental to all of mathematics. You use it all the time, everywhere.

Simply put, Algebra is about finding the unknowns or it is about putting real life problems into equations and then solving them.

We use algebra everyday of our lives. Examples of ways that we use algebra are finding the distance, perimeter of an area, volume, determining the cost of something, renting something, time relationships, pricing options for something you want to buy, and more.

What are good sources of education that I can go to on my own time insofar as books and videos that are written by people who love math who hope to share that love

http://www.mathsisfun.com/

http://www.mathopolis.com/questions/index.php

what lesson was it in math that made you, personally, enjoy math and strive to do it as something you personally sought out?

As a kid I was fascinated with computation and how it was done and why. The first calculation I ever did was finding out how far a beam of light travelled in a vacuum in 50 years. This was a huge computation for a boy of 6. Then I became fascinated with calculating the area under the curves we were drawing on graph paper. Finally, it was curve fitting. It seemed amazing to me. I never forgot that math has its basis in problems and problem solving and was not an abstract field.

I'm not so great about doing something for end result, if a process bores me I'm probably not going to see it through to the end.

Who wold not feel that way? Math is a fascinating field because it solves problems, lots of problems. Also, it is the combined effort of many people. The history of those people is the history of the human race at its best.

Start slow, go at your own pace but start with algebra. Come in here and ask a question when you get stuck.


In mathematics, you don't understand things. You just get used to them.
If it ain't broke, fix it until it is.
Always satisfy the Prime Directive of getting the right answer above all else.

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#5 2014-10-08 14:23:39

ganesh
Administrator
Registered: 2005-06-28
Posts: 23,434

Re: Trying to Overcome a Phobia

Hi Durza1315,

Welcome to the forum!

Neat introductory post!

Last edited by ganesh (2014-10-08 14:25:18)


It is no good to try to stop knowledge from going forward. Ignorance is never better than knowledge - Enrico Fermi. 

Nothing is better than reading and gaining more and more knowledge - Stephen William Hawking.

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#6 2014-10-08 14:35:38

Durza1315
Member
Registered: 2014-10-08
Posts: 5

Re: Trying to Overcome a Phobia

bobbym wrote:

what lesson was it in math that made you, personally, enjoy math and strive to do it as something you personally sought out?

As a kid I was fascinated with computation and how it was done and why. The first calculation I ever did was finding out how far a beam of light travelled in a vacuum in 50 years. This was a huge computation for a boy of 6. Then I became fascinated with calculating the area under the curves we were drawing on graph paper. Finally, it was curve fitting. It seemed amazing to me. I never forgot that math has its basis in problems and problem solving and was not an abstract field.

I'm not so great about doing something for end result, if a process bores me I'm probably not going to see it through to the end.

Who wold not feel that way? Math is a fascinating field because it solves problems, lots of problems. Also, it is the combined effort of many people. The history of those people is the history of the human race at its best.

Start slow, go at your own pace but start with algebra. Come in here and ask a question when you get stuck.

I'm a big fan of competition, military history, and strategic studies. The big incidents where I thought math was actually pretty cool as a tool:

- The inverse square law as applies to military theorem. Let's say that two forces have an 50% chance of eliminating one another per given span of time. As one force succeeds, these percentages don't stay constant. The winning side experiences an increase in its chance of eliminating others: if two forces of ten each are firing upon one another, the side which has ten people over the other side's nine now has a free person who has one less target to spread fire around to. Commensurately, the side which is losing experiences a decrease in its chance of success, as it now has fewer members to return fire with.
-  Cryptographic keys and quantum processing. The longer a key gets, the exponentially greater the number of combinations becomes possible, and the capacity to generate keys rapidly outstrips the capacity of 'brute force' to try all the different combinations.
- Counting cards. I was taught to play blackjack and count cards in my head while I did it for fun with one of the few mentors who ever took the time to try to teach me math. It was a short lived effort, but he succeeded in getting to me through games. I enjoyed observing which cards were being played and counting how many such cards must remain in the deck as a way to gauge any one person's chance of success.
- Diminishing returns. The principal of an investment providing gradually less as more goes into it because the amount of effort it takes to improve doesn't remain static. This illuminated so many social problems for me as a social work major.
- The tragedy of the commons. A field is used to feed cows by four pastoral farmers. Each wishes to optimize their own self-sufficiency. A given set of cows can eat up to 2.5% of the field in a week, but only needs to eat 1% of the field in a week to be healthy and breed. The field restores at a rate of 8% a week. Each individual, if they look only into their own self-interest, permits the cows to eat fully; as a result, after ten weeks, only 20% of the field is left. Were the cows only allowed to eat 1% a week, the field would actually grow 4% each week, and eventually there would be a surplus leading to greater service of the individual. The fact people can't see this is the titular tragedy of the commons.
- Evaluating statistics as sample of the population. I get exposed to a lot of statistics designed to spur emotional reactions. A knowledge of census data combined with the skill to translate raw numbers into a percentage of greater wholes and vice versa does a lot to tell you how serious a problem -really- is respective to the overall population.
- Conversion of units. There's a really good video out there demonstrating, via graph, the distributions of wealth in America and talking about the fact that the argument that "some millionaires work hard" falls short when you realize that they would have to work 300x or more harder than their average paid employee (not the janitor, the average) for their work to alone account for what they have.
- Correlates and outcomes. In social sciences, rarely does one thing translate directly to another distinct outcome, but one thing can translate to another related outcome. For example, perhaps college education doesn't translate directly to higher wages, but it might translate to an increased persistence in making applications which could translate to a higher chance of succeeding simply by applying until you attain a lucky break to getting a higher paying job - and thus it's possible to model how many people with a high paying job are likely to have college educations.
- Apophenia and random choices. Apophenia is the correlation of random data. Data is rarely completely random, rather human capacity to actually relate it all is often so severely behind the amount of data presented that humans lack the capacity to actually distinguish which data is relevant to the outcomes they're observing. If someone believes that the data has no intrinsic meaning, then they choose randomly, which depending on the outcomes, can be lethal, and thus humans try to distinguish patterns. A random choice is one people basically won't think about - thus teaching someone how to make sense of data directly empowers them to choose in their own self-interest, and to distinguish patterns, concepts such as frequency, intensity, and duration have to be measured and observed, meaning tools need to exist to count them. Mathematics is one of those tools.

I have lots of reasons to like math, but how do I go from this to actually practicing math in a more thorough and established kind of fashion?

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#7 2014-10-08 15:44:39

Agnishom
Real Member
From: Riemann Sphere
Registered: 2011-01-29
Posts: 24,843
Website

Re: Trying to Overcome a Phobia

Hi;

Doing tedious arithmetic will always be boring. Get that part done with a computer.

Have a look at this: http://www.computerbasedmath.org/resour … uters.html
The boring school math is not real mathematics.

What is your favorite color?

Last edited by Agnishom (2014-10-08 15:47:31)


'And fun? If maths is fun, then getting a tooth extraction is fun. A viral infection is fun. Rabies shots are fun.'
'God exists because Mathematics is consistent, and the devil exists because we cannot prove it'
I'm not crazy, my mother had me tested.

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#8 2014-10-08 17:14:40

Durza1315
Member
Registered: 2014-10-08
Posts: 5

Re: Trying to Overcome a Phobia

Agnishom wrote:

Hi;
What is your favorite color?

Black. Not an emo thing, it's just striking and bold in a fashion of its own and I feel confident wearing black. And it goes well with most things artistically. I mess around with paint by numbers from time to time.

And yeah. Computers. I use them often.

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#9 2014-10-08 17:15:16

bobbym
bumpkin
From: Bumpkinland
Registered: 2009-04-12
Posts: 109,606

Re: Trying to Overcome a Phobia

Computation, computation, he is the man. If he can not do it, nobody can! Yay computation!  Yay computation.


In mathematics, you don't understand things. You just get used to them.
If it ain't broke, fix it until it is.
Always satisfy the Prime Directive of getting the right answer above all else.

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#10 2014-10-08 19:39:31

bob bundy
Administrator
Registered: 2010-06-20
Posts: 8,167

Re: Trying to Overcome a Phobia

hi Kris,

Welcome to the forum.

bobbym has already suggested the main maths is fun website, but it is so good it is worth saying it twice.  www.mathsisfun.com

Why do I think this is a good place to teach yourself some maths?

(1) It has good indexing and searching, to help you find the right page.

(2) There are cross links on most pages so you can follow up on a point if you want.

(3) The language is clear and, when a new page is made, forum members check it to make sure it has no bugs or confusing words.

(4) The text size and colour make it easier to follow. 

(5) There are excellent diagrams.

(6) Many pages have interactive features which greatly help understanding.  Here's a few examples:

http://www.mathsisfun.com/data/quincunx.html

http://www.mathsisfun.com/data/straight_line_graph.html

http://www.mathsisfun.com/algebra/trigonometry.html

(7)  At the bottom of the page you will find some questions to test your understanding with instant marking.

(8)  It's free !

(9)  If you cannot find a page on a topic, you can ask for it to be considered as a new page.

(10) It also has a lot of good puzzles.

It's where I go first if I want to look something up.

Bob

Last edited by bob bundy (2014-10-08 19:41:53)


Children are not defined by school ...........The Fonz
You cannot teach a man anything;  you can only help him find it within himself..........Galileo Galilei

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#11 2014-10-09 02:08:35

Durza1315
Member
Registered: 2014-10-08
Posts: 5

Re: Trying to Overcome a Phobia

Thanks for the response. Feeling a little pressed to point out that I'm already sold on mathisfun - that's why I've bothered to put so much work into an introduction. I'll be hanging around and making use of the site. It's nice to get a listing of its features I suppose, by and large I'm sold on this already though. I'm trying to learn how I can connect the theories I like back to mathematics I can practice and learn, is it basically just algebra like Bobbym suggested that I should be going for? Last night I started reading some threads started by people in similar positions and the recommendation was calculus. I started watching MIT OpenCourse videos on it. There's a few terms I'm not understanding though, solving for y=f(x) (I dimly remember this coming up in my research class as part of rudimentary use of stats) and locating the tangent line, and I'm not sure how far back or where I need to be looking to learn those.

I have to admit that I'm still really struggling to connect with some of what I'm seeing on the forum. I went to the mathisfun subforum dedicated to 'cool discoveries' and there's things like people asking about prime numbers, or formulas to calculate the number of days in a year, and while I can definitely see how it was exciting to Bobbym, figuring out how far light travels in a vacuum is way too abstract to me. I'm still viciously hungry to figure out how to connect this to things I want to understand, it's the difference between learning math in spite of my past and learning math because of it.

The mathisfun setup seems really sensible, the interactivity on the straight line graph definitely changed it from something I'd be working out on paper through sketches for twenty minutes to appreciate the variability of to something I could mess around with for two using sliders, I'm still not sure what it gears me up to do or understand though. And that's more just the math literacy. What fields of math do what, and what's required to understand those fields of math?

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#12 2014-10-09 03:36:29

bob bundy
Administrator
Registered: 2010-06-20
Posts: 8,167

Re: Trying to Overcome a Phobia

hi Kris,

If you want to understand calculus, you'll need to know about graphs; straight lines and how to get their gradient**; and then curves and how their gradient varies as x varies.  [that's differential calculus ... integral calculus is a summation process that usually follows on from differential]

Some people learn mathematical topics because they need to for a qualification or a job or to help with some other field of study.  From what you've said, it sounds like you want to do maths for fun.  So the starting point ought to be "What do you enjoy?"  Puzzles ? Mathematical Art ? ...?  Personally, learning maths is just part of a wider interest that I have, which is to understand how/why things work.  eg.  Sun dials, why there are exactly 5 Archimedian solids, how you work out bicycle gear ratios, ....

You mention cryptology, economics, game theory, & statistics.  Plenty of maths in all of those.  Do you want to learn more about those? 

Bob

**which is why that interactive graph is useful.


Children are not defined by school ...........The Fonz
You cannot teach a man anything;  you can only help him find it within himself..........Galileo Galilei

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