I am so bad at maths that I had to write a blog about it.
Every time I opened a math equation, I wanted to sleep.
If you asked me to add something and it couldn't be counted with my fingers, then be prepared to watch me glare at your soul in dismay.
If you give me a mental maths equation, ill go mental.
A moment of silence for everyone who tried to tutor me in Maths. I apologize for all the blank looks and breakdowns you had to endure.
I seriously envy those who say they love maths, surely they are sadistic. How on earth do you find a cocktail of letters, numbers, and weird symbols satisfying to look at? Have you no pleasure in life!
All jokes aside, I salute anyone whose good at Maths. I, for one, cannot do basic arithmetic without feeling anxious.
Yes, it’s a thing.
If you think I am overreacting, here is how Dr. Kasi Allen, Ph.D., a math activist (Yes, sadly such thing exists) defines Math Trauma:
Math trauma stems from an event, a series of events, or a set of circumstances experienced by an individual as harmful or threatened such that there are lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and well-being in the perceived presence of mathematics.”
The operative word here is harmful. Yes, math is harmful, I rest my case. We are done here.
You watch movies like a Beautiful Mind or Moneyball and you fantasize about being able to crack the equation or find the loophole. I am not going to lie, I feel insecure about my math skills. I pray no one asks me to split the bill or account for something.
Where does math trauma come from?
The trauma stems from the fear of being wrong. Imagine having severe math anxiety that you require counseling… Well, that is no fiction because 11% of American university students suffer from such extreme cases.
Employment in math-heavy occupations will increase by 28% between 2016 and 2026
That’s bad news for me and anyone who despises maths and sadly many of us are being put to test with our numeracy skills every day. Being forced to learn big data, tons of metrics, and analytics. Rummaging through excel formulas and painfully equating tables and columns, while an error sign pops at the corner of your cell — excel looks more like a prison cell.
Anxiety can lead to difficulties in math. Difficulties in math can lead to anxiety.
I’d love to lie and say I have dyscalculia (severe difficulty in making arithmetical calculations, as a result of brain disorder) but I know I simply have math anxiety and I must face my fears.
Fear of Failure
I remember when I failed geometry. I was tormented because I sat hours studying proofs that I was never able to digest. I redid the test and failed again. That incident forced me to go into the literature field which shut the possibility of me participating in Sciences ever again.
From then on, my hate for maths became personal.
I decided to major in marketing but to my dismay, I was forced to take finance, accounting, and statistics as core subjects. If you ask me if I remember anything from that experience, yes, I remember my tears.
After four long years and many breakdowns, I left university with my sanity intact. The truth, however, was that my numeracy skills were so bad I lacked an edge. Marketing came with a lot of data and making sense out of it.
I loved what I did and with it came compromise.
No such thing as ‘Maths Brain’
Listed as one of Australia’s Top Thinkers, Dr. Lewis Mitchell quotes:
There’s no such thing as a “maths brain” in the same way as I don’t think there’s a “concert pianist brain”.
Maths is not like reading history. You don't just read and keep it in memory. You have to practice it, just like pianist put hours mastering their craft, mathematics requires looking at things with reason, as Lewis puts it “it’s pretty similar to writing a history essay (say): take the topic of the essay, start asking questions to break it down: Why did X happen? What did it lead to? What were the factors driving Y? Do I have evidence for that?”.
And I get it. Math has its beauty. I just wanted to see the ugly side of it.
Things I did to face my fears with numbers:
1. Taking a data foundation course
I am learning how to make sense of data through software tools such as SQL, Python, and Tableau. Honestly, after spending much time I found that manipulating data is fun and the fact that you try to question the numbers makes it less textbook style and more intuitive. Thus, doing courses online that focus more on understanding numbers rather than memorizing formula is a good way to start your journey.
2. Watching one video every day about a math-related topic
YouTube is your safe haven for searching content suited for your liking. Topics like managing budgets, understanding financial statements, and how to calculate large numbers mentally were content I delved into.
3. I focused on “Growth Mindset”
Instead of saying “I'll never be able to understand that” I approached the challenge with a sense of intrigue and opportunity for learning something new.
There is still a long way to go and to calculate the path: d = st