Why Hate Math?
People hate math, at least that's what they're always telling
me. Of course, being the way that I am, I have to make converts
of everyone. I don't know what my passion is exactly, that
drives me to convert the "math haters," but I simply cannot
overcome the compulsion to do so. To me, there is not just
beauty in mathematics but something else which is spiritual.
It's as though God speaks to us through this strange and
mysterious language. For this reason, I always approach the
subject with a certain degree of humility and reverence, knowing
that I can be both abased and exalted by its magnificence.
But why try to make math converts? Why not simply preach to the
choir of that rare group of math lovers? Well firstly, the
latter group is minuscule in comparison to the former, and
secondly, there has always been something noble in trying to
make a "believer" out of a "doubter." Moreover, I have this firm
belief that our society advances or stands still according to
the progress of its children. If the children of society are
reared properly, then the future success of such a society is
strongly enhanced. If the children are adulterated,
ill-educated, and poorly motivated........well, then guess what?
Do you really expect a brighter future for mankind? Hardly.
It is for this reason that I go around preaching the importance
of mathematics, particularly the foundations of arithmetic. To
this day, when I work with a student and see him or her
struggling with the topic at hand--whether it be algebra,
geometry, or even a higher branch such as calculus--I come to
observe that invariably a weak foundation is the root cause of
the struggle. In addition, the student's lack of confidence
makes the fight even more challenging. The struggle having
increased without remedy, the student eventually succumbs and
adopts an "I hate math" attitude.
What is encouraging for such cases and certainly worth stressing
is that all of mathematics hinges on the basics of arithmetic.
It is unfortunate that much of a student's frustration in his
studies later on is the result of poor mastery of arithmetic.
For this reason I say, "Soundly drill this discipline into the
minds of our children and the chances of success in higher
mathematics is dramatically increased." A good analogy to make
would be with sports and professional athletes. Expert athletes
master the basics. The Tiger Woods of the world spent countless
hours practicing the fundamentals of golf swinging. The ace
pitchers of baseball worked on mastering the mechanics of
certain pitches. In both cases, these athletes practiced endless
rounds with a keen focus on both speed and accuracy. Even great
coaches understand the importance of the fundamentals: this is
why athletes spend countless hours in training camp going over
the basic exercises and drills. This same concept applies to
mathematics. Master the basics and the chances of success later
on are increased dramatically.
Consequently, in mathematics, once the foundations are mastered,
success comes in this discipline as easily as it does in others.
Okay. Maybe not as easily, but certainly success will come
nonetheless. And as mathematics is so powerful in helping us
march forward as a society--indeed mathematics unfolds to us
mysteries of the very universe itself--there really is no need
to hate this most awesome subject, but rather love it.