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I think I found out why I do poorly in a traditional math class

Old 03-06-06, 05:42 PM
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I think I found out why I do poorly in a traditional math class

Well I think I have finally learned why, after a good 4 years of searching, I do very poorly in an algebraic type class.
It really struck me in Chemistry. We were doing this thing, Hess's law, and were told "If you don't do well in Algebra, you will likely not do well this unit". Well I did very well in this unit. So this bothers me...

I think I have drawn to a conclusion, that seems logical. I believe that most of the subject Algebra is entirely theoretical. There are even imaginary #'s...
For whatever the reason, I do not do well in this atmosphere. ANd that is why I do very well with mathematics when it is real, like in Chemistry, or Geometry.

But I still need to make it through a term and a half of Alg II . Does anybody have any words of wisdom?
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Old 03-06-06, 05:55 PM
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y=mx+b
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Old 03-06-06, 06:13 PM
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Suck it up and study hard until you get it. Not exactly what you want to hear, but it's what is most effective. A strong mathematical background is invaluable for what you're interested in. Even subjects such as imaginary numbers. In the intro science courses, to teach you concepts and not overburden you with computations, the math tends to be very easy. But the point is to learn the concepts. In real world applications, with many more variables considered and non-linear effects factored in (unless you're purely interested in electrical circuits!), the math can be very complex. Yes, you can always rely on a calculator, but it's important to be capable of doing it by hand because the development of that ability tends to result in the development of an ability to engage in "back of the envelope" calculations (or order of magnitude estimates) and to determine at a glance whether an answer looks "reasonable".
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Old 03-06-06, 06:20 PM
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Oh, and seek help on any mathematical topics or concepts that you struggle with. Post in Foo if you have to. There's some people with a very good handle on math on these boards. And some people who explain things particularly well. And a few that belong to the intersection of those two subsets.

I'll personally explain as many concepts as you ask about if you want me to. It's a far better use of time than the 500-odd posts I've made in the word association thread (not that that isn't fun). I know some people struggle with math because it's like learning a language/game with very rigid rules in a void. It's sometimes hard to connect higher math with one's day to day experiences. I personally struggled like crazy with factoring, and my dad had to sit with me and teach me to factor quadratic polynomials for an hour each night for a few weeks before something clicked.
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Old 03-06-06, 06:26 PM
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Originally Posted by jschen
Suck it up and study hard until you get it. Not exactly what you want to hear, but it's what is most effective. A strong mathematical background is invaluable for what you're interested in. Even subjects such as imaginary numbers. In the intro science courses, to teach you concepts and not overburden you with computations, the math tends to be very easy. But the point is to learn the concepts. In real world applications, with many more variables considered and non-linear effects factored in (unless you're purely interested in electrical circuits!), the math can be very complex. Yes, you can always rely on a calculator, but it's important to be capable of doing it by hand because the development of that ability tends to result in the development of an ability to engage in "back of the envelope" calculations (or order of magnitude estimates) and to determine at a glance whether an answer looks "reasonable".
Good advice.

I was in a similar position to the OP when I was in high school, and took the lazy route - and just coasted through advanced math.

Now, here I am 5 years later, almost out of the Army...looking at college admissions, and studying my moderately sized rump off trying to learn what I should have learned during high school. I'm picking it up more quickly, and more thoroughly - on my own - just using the Princeton Review "Math Smart" books. The catalyst for the improved learning I imagine is due in part to my own intellectual growth, but also to just having a better work ethic.

Stick with it and don't get discouraged, kinda like a long, nasty ride.
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Old 03-06-06, 06:46 PM
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phantomcow2,

I've never liked Algebra but just like you, I find geometry easy. Geometry also gives me a medium of expression/understanding for the mathematical ideas.

On the radio I heard Temple Grandin, a woman known for being highly educated and autistic, say that she would have learnt Algebra more easily if she had studied Geometry first. I think my brain is abnormal, not in the sense of mental illness but in the sense that it departs from the norm. In addition to the learning style, I can also recall lots of arcane data about some subjects. I wonder what psychological or physiological characteristics I might share with those who are autistic.

Sorry it's not practical advice but maybe within your lifetime you'll be able to learn more about your style of learning.
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Old 03-06-06, 07:23 PM
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To be honest, I have no idea what my ideal learning style is. It seems to differ so much, not easy to keep track of.

I've found that usually I can look up the Algebra topic online, and understand it without much if any difficulty. I think I am better off doing htat than trying to learn from class, that is getting me nowhere
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Old 03-06-06, 07:25 PM
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^^^BroMax, you make an excellent point. One thing I've found is that different people come to terms with the same concept in different ways. It's hard in a big class setting because there's only time to present the material once, in some method that's a consensus method. But for most topics, there are many ways to present the exact same information, explaining things in slightly different ways while having all the ways be absolutely correct and informative. Since different people grasp the same concept in different ways, this is where personalized instruction can be extremely valuable.
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Old 03-06-06, 07:26 PM
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I wish i did not graduate next year, I've heard that in two or so years they will be introducing a series on mathematics that focuses on Algebra, Geometry, and Calc, but applied.
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Old 03-06-06, 07:54 PM
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Take each concept that you have trouble with in algebra and make it physical. Find a tutor who can help you with that. Teaching methods of teachers are a shotgun approach and may not target the way you learn best. A good tutor who can show you the concepts in different ways would be very, very helpful. Take the Briggs-Meier test to see what kind of areas and processes you're best with.

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Old 03-06-06, 08:50 PM
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whats a derivative?
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Old 03-06-06, 09:50 PM
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I used to be a horrible math student but for some reason I've got the highest score on my ISATS sophmore year in mathematics. For some reason all it takes is playing around with it and using different methods of problem solving. Thats the beauty of math. You will always be able to solve it but you have to think through logically. Its truly my favorite subject because it gives me the most satisfaction when I understand it.

Does anyone else get really excited when they understand a concept or figure out a problem by themselves? Or have fun completing alot of problems because you just know you can since it makes since?

I regret having a bad attitude towards math in middle school but that was the bandwagon idea. Good luck in your math classes, these forums are great for figuring out problems.

Jschen I still have the worst time with factoring! Its coming though but I'm teaching myself.
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Old 03-06-06, 11:23 PM
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I returned to school a few years ago after taking about 10 years off. I had a hard time in my math classes for much the same reason you describe. I've always been a whiz with applied arithmetic and math, but when it's purely theoretical, I have real patience issues.

As Yogi Berra said, "In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is." (How's that for words of wisdom?)

What helped me was visualizing some sort of application for whatever problem I was solving. You might try that.
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Old 03-07-06, 02:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Katrogen
Does anyone else get really excited when they understand a concept or figure out a problem by themselves? Or have fun completing alot of problems because you just know you can since it makes since?
First question, most definitely. Doesn't have to be math. I really enjoy having a light bulb turn on in my head. Especially if it's a big concept or a very non-obvious one. As for completing problems just for the sake of it, no thanks. That's not for me. Enough real world issues to solve in my research to care about problems just for the heck of it.

I regret having a bad attitude towards math in middle school but that was the bandwagon idea. Good luck in your math classes, these forums are great for figuring out problems.

Originally Posted by Katrogen
Jschen I still have the worst time with factoring! Its coming though but I'm teaching myself.
Yeah, factoring is a tough nut to crack. One can go about it systematically, but to get to the point where one can just look at it and have a good clue what the answer is took me an inordinate amount of time. It was well worth it, though, since in my case, the time spent really helped develop an ability to consider many possibilities simultaneously and not fixate on any one of them until top candidates have been selected.

Those big light bulb moments are the ones I love most. Because they give a lesson that's so broadly and generally applicable. Often, it's not obvious until later which ones are the really big light bulbs. I don't need to factor much nowadays, so I probably don't factor nearly as quickly as I did 14 years ago, but the general principle of not fixating on something and screening my options quickly before picking one has stuck with me and developed through the years.
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Old 03-07-06, 06:35 AM
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Alebra is probably the MOST practical of all math beyond simple math. When it boils down, calculus in most all flavors is just advanced algebra.
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Old 03-07-06, 06:42 AM
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Originally Posted by onelessunicycle
whats a derivative?
It's the slope of a function. Rate of change.

Phantom Cow
I've told you before "Get the Schum's Outline" for the course before you take it and work through the problems. And keep at it through the class - you can make it.

I know this is just another variation on suck it up and study, but at least it offers a plan of how to attack it.

Good luck
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Old 03-07-06, 07:07 AM
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Originally Posted by joeprim
I've told you before "Get the Schum's Outline" for the course before you take it and work through the problems.
Just for clarification, the series of books are "Schaum's Outlines".

joeprim's advice is good. The hard spot I have with these outlines is that they tend to use different notation that the textbooks use. But you can't beat repetition, and these outlines have LOTS of problems for practice, along with detailed explanations.
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Old 03-07-06, 07:23 AM
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Is there anything about the teacher or other classmates that make the class un-enjoyable?

As my mom the ED teacher says "every teacher needs to teach as if there is a deaf student, a blind student, and a deaf & blind student in their class." This would mean that a teacher would have to teach in a way other then what works for them.

I was similar to you in that I could easily pick up the information when presented correctly. How can a student go from top 2 in the class to the middle of the pack?.......by changing teachers mid year.....yes it sucked.
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Old 03-07-06, 07:35 AM
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[QUOTE=budster

As Yogi Berra said, "In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is." (How's that for words of wisdom?)

.[/QUOTE]


Yogi Berra is awesome...how does he do that?
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Old 03-08-06, 03:23 PM
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WEll I asked a Calculus student for help today, guy I know pretty well.
He explained the entire chapter (1.5weeks worth of class), in about 10 minutes. I went from not being able to do a single most basic problem of this chapter, to being able to do nearly all of it.
I feel like class is getting me nowhere, so I think I will just use a few folks I know for reference instead. It really is not that difficult now...

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Old 03-08-06, 04:45 PM
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Are you in college? Highschool? Both always have some sort of math tutoring group. My highschool has one on Thursdays. Look around, sometimes people are always in them. It feels good once you comprehend the stuff. Then math is fun!



I learned myself that I can't do things always on my own. I have a hard time asking for help because of ego and scared to annoy somebody with my dumb questions. After asking though I find people appreciate me seeking their knowledge, showing interest in a certain topic, and of course being able to understand something with a more one on one teacher.
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Old 03-09-06, 06:03 AM
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Originally Posted by phantomcow2
WEll I asked a Calculus student for help today, guy I know pretty well.
He explained the entire chapter (1.5weeks worth of class), in about 10 minutes. I went from not being able to do a single most basic problem of this chapter, to being able to do nearly all of it.
I feel like class is getting me nowhere, so I think I will just use a few folks I know for reference instead. It really is not that difficult now...

Good you got to step 1. The Schaum's Outlines accomplish the same thing.



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