Am I bad at math...?

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**Contributors to this thread:**
Will's Link
https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/10/the-myth-of-im-bad-at-math/280914/

Cool article I just stumbled into while doing some reading for work that I thought some of you would enjoy as well...

It spurred a different post (in my mind) Ill make a different thread for.

I agree with the premise of the article that most anyone can learn math if they work hard enough at it. What blows me away is that hardly anyone under 50 years of age that I know can do basic math in their head. It's a lost art. That's what calculators and computers have done to people.

I agree with you Pig Doc but I think that people who can't do math in their head are typically a little younger than that. I am 47 and most of the people I know that are my age all still do math in their head. My wife is 4 years younger than me and she doesn't do math in her head. So...I would guess you are very close on your age comment.

Yep. Calculators became the rage in the mid-70's. Kids that learned math before that are generally better at doing math in their heads. Of course there are exceptions.

Crap. Half my friends are engineers in their 30s. . . they'll blow you away with the math that they'll do in their heads.

The problem isn't the age of people, it's that we don't have to do much math in our heads anymore. Except for maybe figuring change or tips. When you don't need to do it everyday, it makes it harder to do it in your head.

Or even on paper. I was involved in a case several years ago that I had to calculate present and future values of pensions in a divorce. I hadn't done complicated math (except basic accounting) for years. I couldn't remember how to do a lot of the math that was involved in those calculations. I had an app that would figure it for me, but I needed to be able to show my work for the judge (the other attorney and I agreed not to hire economists) . I figured it out, but it took a little while to refresh myself on some of the math principles involved.

I was never good at math...I sucked and I knew it. Alot of anxiety with math. Somehow I got a my AS around 1998/99. 15 years later I went back to school and got my BA. Math was the last class I needed to get that BA degree. After I retired I took back to back to back Algebra classes starting at the bottom and working my way up in order to get thru College Algebra. I was going thru cancer biopsies and felt like crap in the last class but I did it. I remember a few times coming into class or math lab directly from the Dr's office or hospital with stitches and bandages everywhere or on meds. I figured if I'm going to see St Peter at the Pearly Gates I WILL have that dang piece of paper stuffed in my pine box. It all worked out good in the end. Point being in this personal story....if you want something bad enough....you have to take the word "quit" and "can't" out of your vocabulary....no pity parties...ever! Completing College Algebra was a huge thing in my life and mind.

I work in Nuclear Medicine, and can't even remember how to run a decay formula, without a scientific calculator. Easier to go online, type in the isotope, amount, and decay time, and there you have it!

That being said, I do a lot of math in my head, because I can do it faster than using a calculator. "Use it or lose it", when it comes to your brain. Makes me sad for the upcoming generation...

What is math? ;-)

I remember my first calculator. It was a Texas Instruments TI-30. It was a high school graduation gift intended for my college education in engineering. They were outrageously expensive, and I thought I had won the lottery. Then, I realized it was basically a tool for doing some things I could do in my head faster, and other things I couldn't (ie: Try solving a Pythagorean theorem equation in your head.)

Technology giveth and taketh away.

Matt

I was pretty good at math and am glad I took algebra. It got me a job in Emulsion Polymerization. I would scale up a two liter bottle recipe to a 7800 gallon reactor. Glad I was pretty good at math since it got me a great job that I kept for 37 years.

PD raises a good point. It is amazing how many people cant do much without serious thinking. That said, the math "trick" that amazes me is change. Watching people who are young and never had to figure out change (register has always told them how much to give), try to figure it out if the register is not working or something... makes you realize that if you dont use it you lose it for sure!

"Calculators became the rage in the mid-70's"

That may be true but I started teaching in 1979 and it was several years before calculators got cheap enough that I could an electronic calculator. I calculated all grades by hand.

When I was in high school, Texas had a math competition known as Number Sense. I don't know if they still have it, but you had 80 questions, ten minutes and could not scratch out or skip. I can do a lot of math in my head quicker than you can punch it into a calculator.... Of course you learn tricks, like how to square numbers ending in five, but it's amazing how well you can do without needing electronics.

in the 80's when my students got calculators, I used to race them with my slide rule. If I remember correctly, it was generally pretty close, but I held my own.

My plebe year at the US Naval Academy (1974) we were required to use slide rules even though TI was making a great but expensive calculator. I was running late for a physics test and forgot my slide rule. I was already down to the parking lot and hollered to my roommate on the 4th floor to toss me my slide rule. I missed the catch, ran to class, opened the case and found my slide rule in several pieces. I passed the test doing the math long hand but it was a major challenge.

I love using the technology we have today but it's still valuable to be able to do math problems in your head, especially in meeting settings.

I love long-hand math. Do it all the time....