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Thread: Roots and Exponents

  1. #1
    Aug 2008

    Roots and Exponents

    I generally have a lot of trouble with Maths and these are the themes that are coming up this year:


    quadratic functions

    power functions

    exponential functions



    I need help so badly. We're only at step 1 and I'm already having so much trouble. I feel so humiliated for not knowing how to do any of that and my teacher just makes fun of me.

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  2. #2
    MHF Contributor
    Aug 2007
    Here's a quick plan for survival...

    "I generally have a lot of trouble with Maths" -- Never say that again.
    "I generally have a lot of trouble with Maths" -- Never think that again.

    "I need help so badly." -- Quit telling yourself this.
    "I need help so badly." -- Don't listen to it when others tell you this.

    "I'm already having so much trouble." -- Stressing will not help. Seek help. That is what you are doing here. Good call! You should also seek local assistance. A live person with a clue and a little compassion can be very beneficial.

    "I feel so humiliated for not knowing how to do any of that" -- Simply stop it. Never feel that way again. You are supposed to be learning, right? If you knew it already, why would you be in the class? Really, just stop it.

    "...and my teacher just makes fun of me." -- This is a tough one. Is he or she flirting? That is no good. Is he or she trying to entertain other students? That is no good. Have you talked to the teacher about this impression? A professional educator would not stand for his or her own behavior being so perceived.

    Having said that, why don't we just learn some mathematics?

    One thing you should know, and it's more obvious when learning languages that are foreign to you, is that there are different kinds of thinking - not good or bad, just different. I have suggested to many language students, whose native language in English, the very simple and overlooked idea, "You are NOT speaking English here!" I do not mean that English is not allowed, rather, that if we think like we are speaking English we will not ever know that French vowels, or Dutch consonants, or German grammar, or whatever we are studying is fundamentally different! You must retrain your brain and your mouth and your ear to hear the new language. English is not a good place to hide when trying to learn Finnish, for example, especially if you have a Southern Accent. Oi!!

    I hope you get my language example. It is also applicable to mathematics. Part of the teaching of mathematics is to help you learn how to think in a more linear or organized fashion. Not everyone thinks this way. It's okay. It is good that not everyone thinks this way. We need liberal arts people. It makes the whole world less boring. The difficulty is in understanding the point of a liberal education. Part of the point is to broaden the student's experience, to make artsy people look at science and to make scientists look at literature and etc. -- generally to make people step out of their comfort zone and see something they might never have encountered had they not been forced to do so.

    Do you have to get 'A's in math? If so, why? Would a 'B' or even a 'C' ruin your life? I think not. It's okay to struggle, but I'm sure you can struggle less if you follow my survival plan and my suggestion that you need to realize that different thinking may be required. If you are not accumstomed to organized thinking, you will need to practice. Realize that you need to switch your brain deliberately over to linear mode and learn to memorize and to follow axioms and mathematical structure. The real miracle is that once you have some small measure of success in this practice, you will begin to see it in the other things that you do. You will understand your art better with a little background in mathematics, just like mathematicians begin to appreciate an elegant proof or demonstration a little more once they have a little appreciation of art. Did you know that mathematicians even know the word "elegant"?

    We're all in this together. Let's learn some mathematics!

    Okay, enough of the pep talk. Let's see a problem you are working on. There are many, many, many people who are willing and able to help and will NOT make fun of you. Don't forget to show your work - as much as you can muster.
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