Why Math is the Most Frustrating Academic Subject

mathBy: Brad Manock

            The only class that I have ever failed, at any point in my academic career, was pre-algebra when I was in 9th grade. I am not saying that math, in and of itself, is the most difficult subject. But Math is by far the most frustrating subject because of how it is taught and how it is graded. In this article I am going to go into detail about why I dreaded math so much growing up. If you enjoyed math growing up, reading skip this article.

Hang On A Second!

            Math was not too hard for me until about middle school. I was not stupid, I understood the content being taught, yet I was still getting poor grades in math. So why would I be doing poorly in math if I understood the content at the exact pace that I was supposed to? Let’s walk through an example, a three-day window as was a common time frame for discussing a particular topic in math. Day one, we would introduce the topic, this would be the day that the teacher begins at step one and goes through how to solve the particular type of problem being discussed. We would get homework about the topic which I would usually do poorly on. Day two we would go through variations and more difficult versions of problems discussed in the previous day, again I would get homework and do poorly. The third day is when things finally click in my mind, this is when I would finally understand the problems discussed in the previous two days. We are reviewing the topic one more time for the test, but no homework. So what does this mean? I would ONLY get math homework when I had no idea what the fuck I was doing. As soon as I understood the topic we would move on to the next topic I had no clue about.

            The tests were the only reason I ever passed any math classes, I felt like I was running on a treadmill but I kept falling off. Does that mean I was slow? Maybe a little bit, but being just a little bit slow was treated the same way as being straight up retarded by family and teachers. I would always understand the topics in math one day after it matters for a grade. But because of this I would always be pushed into extra tutoring which did no good because the tutor would be trying to teach me things that I already knew. This was very frustrating, I would be going to these tutoring sessions because my family would make me, all the while I knew that it would do no good because I already knew the content being taught. It makes you feel helpless to walk out your door thinking to yourself with certainty “well I’m about to waist the next two hours of my life.”

No Hope

            If I had done one more assignment per topic without switching to a new topic, I would have been fine and the grades would have averaged out to at least a “D” between the hopeless assignments and the ones where I knew what I was doing. But for some reason the system is set up so that what you know is always just a little less than what you are supposed to know. So is this the only reason math is the most frustrating topic? Nope.

Close Doesn’t Count!

            Math is made of bullshit and deception. Let’s move on from how math is taught and dig into the subject itself. In elementary school math was pretty easy because you would be working with whole numbers and the questions were not nearly as deceptive as it became later on. Math problems are either right or wrong, there is no in-between, no partial credit. If I got an answer that was “0.01” away from the correct answer it would be just as wrong as an answer that was “100” away from the correct answer. Another very deceptive tactic used on math assignments would be listing four possible answers, and my top two answers are both options. I am usually a very good test taker. I can understand wording and eliminate possible answers to increase my odds of picking the correct answer even if I don’t know much about the topic that the test is about. But in math they seem to be good at throwing that “general test taking skill” off and making you rely only on your knowledge of math. So is this deceptive bullshit? Well, not really but it makes it much more frustrating than other topics.

The Gold Medal For Bullshit Goes To…

            Let’s discuss the one topic in math that I specifically remember after several years specifically for the sheer amount of bullshit is contains. What could it be? *drumroll* … Imaginary numbers, remember this shit? I didn’t even know I had a bullshit alarm in my brain until the day imaginary numbers was introduced in math class. Now let me refresh your brain regarding imaginary numbers. Imaginary numbers are what we use as a square-root for negative numbers, which is impossible. So basically we invented this thing to do an impossible thing, why would we ever need to know this? There must be two scientists in Sweden and now math classes everywhere are like “well those two scientists use this concept, we need to teach it to every 10th grader in case they ever need it as well.”

            How did we come up with imaginary numbers? There must have been a mathematician a long time ago who was trying to figure out how to find square roots for negative numbers. After many tries this mathematician became frustrated. A more experienced and wiser mathematician must have walked in at that point and looked at the failed attempts to find this concept. This wiser mathematician would have then said “if you can’t find an answer that means you haven’t added enough bullshit yet, that is what math is made of after all.” And then the “eureka” moment would have happened to invent imaginary numbers.

            I am so glad that I am close to graduating college, and I will never have to do math in an academic setting again. If you are still in high school or younger, good luck! Just wade through the ocean of bullshit until you reach the other side. Perhaps the real purpose of math classes is to shove so much bullshit down your throat that the math that you do in the real world does not seem nearly as difficult in comparison.


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