Why Mathematics Is Hard to Be Liked

Mathematics is a knowledge deemed important for human. But this subject is hardly liked by most people. Not few of them hate it and see it as a subject for gifted people only. This is due to awful presentations of the subject.

Intuition & Logic

Intuition and logic are integral parts (pun intended :p)in solving math problems. Intuition motivates people to get a hold on the big picture of the problem. Logic constructs that picture into detailed steps to actually solve the problem.

Unfortunately in most math lessons, only logic part is brought upfront and the intuition part is set aside. This causes a lot of students feel upset, give up easily or even don’t bother trying when they are faced with problems they’ve never seen before. Their intuition becomes dull because they are only taught the ‘how‘ without ever understanding the ‘why‘. This is why students feel math is hard and often not relevant. This is also the reason why most people only see math as a subject full of calculations and formulas.

This condition is worsen by math teachers who sometimes accept correct answers only when the working steps are exactly as they taught. People who have different intuition and approach the problem differently while arriving at the same answers would disrespect such teachers. When they don’t like the teachers, it is also hard to like the subject taught.

Bullying and Pedantry

Another condition that makes mathematics hard to like is the bullying act from those who feel more ‘expert’ in mathematics. They laugh at people who give obviously wrong answer; they label other people stupid for having a bad grade, etc. Bullying can also manifest in a more subtle way through pedantry: Forcing a certain perspective to an ambiguous math expression like 6รท2(1+2); Exploiting language’s semantic ambiguity into math problems (e.g. Percentage vs Point Percentage). The bullies argue that they do this in order to let people practice carefulness because mathematics is ‘rigorous’.

Mathematics is a collective subject. It is built by people among countries and cultures throughout history. Language difference could hinder people communicating math ideas. That’s why math notations were invented and meticulously designed so that people can communicate math ideas even though they don’t speak the same language. In this spirit, introducing ambiguity is a forbidden thing among mathematicians, moreover exploiting it.

Boring Dry

Last but not least, math is hard to be liked because the subject is often taught in a boring dry manner. Every math concept often has interesting stories behind its discovery. Unfortunately the stories usually never get mentioned in math lessons. For example a math lesson about how to quickly count the sum of the first 100 whole numbers (1+2+3+…+100). Did you know that the formula was discovered by a 7 year-old boy? Did you know that recently in 2019, a 12 year-old Nigerian boy from UK discovered a new algorithm for checking divisibility of a number by 7?

When math lessons are accompanied by the story of its discovery when taught, the lessons would feel more colorful and less likely be boring. This doesn’t mean math would become easier though. But this surely bring up the feel for appreciation about the concept being taught and to some extend, the subject itself.




Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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