Why Do People Hate Math?

Of all the subjects we are forced to study in school, people seem to reserve their bitterest revulsion for mathematics. What is it about this elegant and pure field of knowledge that invokes such terror?

A recent unofficial survey revealed that around 70% of the worlds schoolchildren claimed to “hate maths”. A quick search on social network sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Bebo and I uncovered dozens of groups dedicated to anti-maths sentiment, with a combined membership of thousands of people. Here in Ireland, Maths has the highest failure rate of any subject at school-leaving level. Why does mathemathics seem to inspire fear and intimidation in students around the world? What is it about this subject that reduces the linguistically gifted and the musically adept to tears of frustration?

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Of course, everyone has their strengths and weaknesses at school. Some excel at languages, others art or music. Some of us find our niche in history or geography, and others feel at home in the chemistry lab or the gym. There are very few Renaissance men or women in our ranks, all-rounders who refuse to restrict themselves to one area. For the most part we pick and choose our favourite subjects, based on what comes easy to us. And many of us decide that maths is not for us, that we will never grasp it, and we cave in.

Throughout my academic life, I have had a conflicted relationship with numbers and symbols. My marks have swung from the occasional A grade to the dreaded D, or worse. I spent a lot of time wondering why I disliked maths (time which probably should have been spent doing homework).  The strange thing was, I had a good teacher. I continued learning maths at the highest level there was, miraculously scraping by each time.

One of the things about maths that irked me was it’s sneakiness. Math wanted to trick you. It wanted to get the better of you. It sent you down avenues that would give you invalid answers, and then you had to start again using another method. Math also confused me because it wasn’t words. Call me arrogant, but I’ve always been able to sort of make stuff up when armed with language, words, phrases. People would say “Well, at least there is only one answer in math”. I thought, “Yes, but what if the question is asked in a language you understand?”. Maths was stoic, cold, hostile. It didn’t care for your opinions – it wanted the truth.

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10 Responses to “Why Do People Hate Math?”
  1. xzenophod Says...

    On July 25, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    my perception of math is that the process is usually the intellectual property of unpleasant people, to access it, one must kiss up to social misfits (like teachers), who simply don’t need you. it’s easier and more gratifying to discredit the part and parcel as unnecessary.


  2. Sumant Mukherjee Says...

    On August 9, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    The problem is that we are not taught how to study maths. Like any subject the study of maths becomes a pile of information. But if u are taught how to study maths then u will never find this problematic.

    I dont consider myself as a very good maths literate, having only been able to master some amt of linear algebra, a bit of topology, some statistics and even lesser abstract algebra. But I will give a suggestion which I follow and bears me fruits. Maths cannot be taught one way. If u have a text book which say 2 ppl read and try to teach each other and come up with counter examples and try to prove without first looking at the proof and even earlier than that try to construct a physical picture of the statement of the theorem then maths will not be difficult.

    Believe me I was never good at maths was what my teachers at college said but as I work now with people who are mathematicians and try to teach them I also learn tremendously and also surprisingly. Hence maths requires active reading not passive hence it is a bit tiresome, but give sufficient effort u can master it.


  3. GoldenInkweaver Says...

    On October 11, 2009 at 7:47 am

    I hate math. Simple as that. My teacher says I have a (made up) disease, AMD, Anti-math disease. When I start doing math, i yawn, complain and my brain forgets EVERYTHING. i spend, appprox. 15 mins telling what 3 times 5 times 8 is!!
    i hate that no questions are allowed. (WHY do you multiply by 48? Why do you have to do this formula when you can just…and so on and so on….) i like creativity, and even random drawing…But calculation in that would just ruin my day.


  4. bad hat Says...

    On November 17, 2010 at 1:19 am

    I`m an adult college student with a 3.6 GPA. I`m required to take pre algebra before I can move on to algebra. The problem is thatI just can`t understand it. I can`t grasp the basics of it, I can`t remember tables or formulas,Every time I try to do the homework, I get sweaty palms, breathe heavy, and get really, really bad headaches.Since I intend to teach art or world history, this course is doing nothing for my degree. When I told my teacher that I can`t understand it and forget everything the next day, all she says is that I`m “so negative”.Easy for her to say, she understands it! I even failed a “take home” exam she gave us. I`m desperate. I know that I can`t graduate unless I pass it.Even tutoring didn`t help. I guess I`ll never graduate. I`m a math moron, pure and simple.


  5. Vic Hammer Says...

    On December 1, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    Bad hat, I totally sympathize. My situation is exactly the same as yours: I’m hopeless at math, with no way to ever improve. Same with science.

    I wonder why I was even born sometimes.


  6. INGRF1 Says...

    On January 27, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Maths is not a science. It is a religion. You add one number to another and Wham! We have a new number.
    Nobody can say how it happens. You either believe it or you don’t.

    In my opinion, people don’t like maths because there really is no point in a vast majority of it, other than a big plus point on your CV.
    Learning French will help you communicate abroad.
    Learning Science will help you appreciate the world around us
    But factorising? Trapezium interogation? Brackets?

    Unless you become a designer or something, half of this stuff will never be used or be useful. The only maths we’ll ever do is waging up the bills.


  7. erica Says...

    On February 17, 2011 at 3:57 am

    I really loved your article. It’s so well written. I have a statistics exam tomorrow and I am trying so hard to keep focused while studying…I hate math because it doesn’t sink in easily and it frustrates me a lot. But when I do get it, it feels great.


  8. Nell Says...

    On November 27, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    This article was great! A couple of minutes ago, I looked online at my last Algebra II exam and saw that I had a D. What amazes me each time is that I do well on homework, quizzes, and EVEN HELP OTHER STUDENTS. And look at those students getting A’s and B’s. Look at my grade flushing down the toilet. The comments above made me laugh so hard, because I know I am not the only one who feels unmotivated to even live life because I just can’t think math. I hate being constrained in equations and one answers. I love creativity, pondering over why things happen, and creating my own answer. Physics, algebra, geometry (THE WORST), and precalc…despise. A bitter hatred. I’m just in tears everyday and I can’t do anything about it. hahaa, oh well. So is life, I guess.


  9. Nell Says...

    On November 27, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    This article was great! A couple of minutes ago, I looked online at my last Algebra II exam and saw that I had a D. What amazes me each time is that I do well on homework, quizzes, and EVEN HELP OTHER STUDENTS. And look at those students getting A\’s and B\’s. Look at my grade flushing down the toilet. The comments above made me laugh so hard, because I know I am not the only one who feels unmotivated to even live life because I just can\’t think math. I hate being constrained in equations and one answers. I love creativity, pondering over why things happen, and creating my own answer. Physics, algebra, geometry (THE WORST), and precalc…despise. A bitter hatred. I\’m just in tears everyday and I can\’t do anything about it. hahaa, oh well. So is life, I guess.


  10. amanda Says...

    On October 20, 2012 at 8:36 am

    you know what…
    I think that maths is the easiest subject of all.
    only understanding and no learning.
    it is actually good for those who hate learning. i have loved maths all through my school. it is the only subject that helps you in ur future.
    so what i think is that maths is a superb and excellent subject
    nnnnn………… easiest of all…


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