Study What Scares You
Avoiding what you’re not good at solves nothing.
Sometimes you have to look at something from a different angle to your peers, and that’s fine.
Arithmophobia — A Fear of Mathematics
I had a conversation with a student about Topology. I followed his explanation for about 1 minute before he descended into formulae and geometry and many other words that make my brain power down out of fear.
I decided to level with him. I told him I was terrified of maths, I never quite understood the real-life application of it yet understood it was one of the languages of science — it explained everything in many respects.
He told me that I was like Turing. Probably the best undeserved compliment ever received. But according to my student, Turing could only understand that which he could apply to the real world, like the patterns on fish scales and shells, for example.
He said what I described as an inability was rather just a different approach to mathematics.
I might have avoided it and therefore never improved, which only reinforced my fear of never being any good at it. Rather than listening to lectures and trying to remember the formula and numerical data, I should take the time to place what I am taught in a way I can understand. The real world.
This may seem elementary for some readers, and I have always been aware that there are different learning styles. But I have also consistently been told that some people are better with numbers and some better with abstract concepts. What we have here is someone — me — who cannot work with numbers in abstract ways. How do you solve that?
To counter this, I watched the lectures of my course again, and instead of simply copying their words, I took down the formulae and the results and sat with them until I could explain what this meant in real life. I drew diagrams and flowcharts and erased them when I found simpler diagrams and flowcharts to use.
I spent two hours after the 10 minute lecture interpreting what I had been taught into how I could learn it.
I took the exam when I felt ready.
I got 90%. I almost cried.
Do not give up on a topic because you are not taught it in a way that suits you.
Education is presented for the greater whole, and we don’t always match our teacher. Sometimes you have to take the information and teach yourself.
How you learn is more important than what topics you feel you are good at.
Don’t be afraid of any subject. There is always a way to learn it that has not been tried yet.