This blog is not about how miserable math is. Math is not misery! Math is fun, beautiful, practical, useful, and true. Instead, the title “Math Misery” aims to convey the general feeling that the majority of people have when it comes to working with mathematics.

Why is this though? Why is it that across all walks of life, the subject of mathematics instills fear, panic, and general anxiety among people? I can speculate on a lot of reasons. Our education system has a misguided way of teaching the subject matter. This, in turn, creates a feedback loop. Kids become adults. Adults become parents. Parents don’t emphasize mathematics because they didn’t understand it. Rinse and repeat and we have what we have today.

There’s also a general misunderstanding about what mathematics is. Many believe that being “good at math” means being able to compute mentally and quickly. Many people also do not understand what mathematicians do. “Oh, you’re a mathematician? Where do you teach?” And if this is the sentiment, why should one bother studying mathematics, if all one would do is just teach it?

Even the simplest topics like basic arithmetic are taught in such a painful way, it is no wonder people shy away from further study.

This blog like so many other math-related blogs aims to bring awareness about what mathematics is and what mathematicians do. There are (or will be) tools for teachers, students, practitioners, and just anyone curious.

As is the case with most blogs, the content here is for educational purposes. Our language is discrete, but our cognitive processes are far more granular. There is no expectation that a given method, solution, pedagogy, etc. will work 100% of the time for 100% of the students. Educators know their students the best and should find the appropriate pedagogical and didactic methods. In other words, use sound judgment when teaching and don’t expect a miracle method.

With that said, I hope that you will be able to find answers, ideas, and friends here.

KarenStill having trouble with “simple” math? Please get yourself to an educational psychologist and get yourself tested. I put up with severe parental nagging the entire time I was growing up (while getting D’s in math), in part because I also had a genius IQ. Teachers and parents told me I “just wasn’t working at it hard enough”.

Low and behold, in my 40’s I was working as a manager of a vocational rehabilitation counseling company when one of the counselors noticed that I had trouble even writing a phone number correctly. She shipped me off to an educational psychologist who found, among other problems, that it took me a much longer time to even SEE numbers than the average person. In other words, a perceptual problem. I had no idea that this was the case. Learning disabilities can be subtle. I’m still suffering dyscalculia at age 72, but I’d like people to be aware that math learning problems and the concomitant misery are sometimes hard to detect without the proper kind of help.

Manan ShahPost authorThank you for writing this! And I’m sorry for what you had to endure. It is a general failing of our society that problems that affect a few are rarely tended to unless and until those affected have grown to a critical mass. At the very least, we know nowadays about things like dyscalculia. And as teacher training programs incorporate more modern research, we should hope that they are able to detect such learning disabilities in students at an early enough age.