Monday, February 23, 2009

Any brilliant folks here?

I figured it couldn't hurt to ask:

My son Wally the college freshman is having a hell of a time with math. Specifically, advanced algebra / linear equations and such. When it comes to practical math, he's fine -- inherited that from his father. But his befuddlement at the more abstract concepts comes, alas, straight down the maternal line. He is taking the course for the second time, having bowed out with an incomplete last semester. He's even considered changing majors to avoid it, but every field he's looked into seems to have math lurking in the wings.

He's doing well enough with homework because it's all online and the program encourages students to keep looking for the answer until they get it right. But when a test is on paper, in front of him, and he has no other resources, he's lost. I don't think this is a "test anxiety" thing, since he's doing fine in all his other classes.

Anybody out there know any good secrets for fooling your brain into playing along with the course material and avoid the "oh, this is that stupid math that makes no sense and will never be used ever again after this" mindset? I'd love to hear from people who consider themselves major math-phobes but who found a way to chop through it and pass.

Any and all suggestions will be cut/pasted and e-mailed.

Thanks,

Wally's Mom

9 comments:

Dusty Banks said...

I know how your son feels, I could never master math in high school. In fact it was miracle that I passed the math portion of the exit exam in high school. Today my apprehension is keeping me from taking any math courses and transferring to the collage of my dreams. I don’t have an answer; all I can say is your boy is not alone.

Eric M. said...

I have found absolutely no need for advanced algebra (and very little basic algebra) in life-after-school. I had a hard time with it and, thankfully, have no need for it in my line of work. The only advice I can offer is – how about a tutor?

Dana said...

Well ... I'm no help. I actually found calculus to be a lot of fun. It's all just a big puzzle and figuring out how all the parts go together is like a treasure hunt.

Like I said ... I'm no help!

Sleepy Scott said...

Have you considered the purchase of an old-style textbook at a second-hand bookstore, where there may be sample tests with answers in the back?

Struggling with some example equations in the same manner as he is being tested (on paper) may help.

Volly said...

That's an interesting idea. I'm convinced it's a mind game, more than a cognitive deficit -- just requires some tricky psychology to overcome.

I will pass the suggestion along, thanks.

Persephone said...

I don't know if this will work for math, which I abandoned at the high school level as soon as I'd managed the minimum requirement for university admission, but I found the most effective study method for me was creating my own exams from my class notes and text book. It wasn't just the testing myself that worked, it was forcing myself to think like a teacher and processing the stuff by putting it into exam form that worked for me.

Volly said...

Thanks, Persephone, and I think it would work for any subject. I've used that one numerous times. Your words are winging their way to Tempe...

Homeopath said...

Interesting blog......

Al Penwasser said...

Sleepy Scott's idea is great. Even though I'm no math whiz, I've found that looking at old examples and working them out in my head helps me understand difficult concepts. Similarly, manipulating a set of numbers that I already know the answer for also is a big help. But, like I said, I'm no math genius. I consider myself more of a literary type who has a way with words. Unlike some who...uh...oh...not have way (yes, it's an old Steve Martin line which I like!).