Maths at School is Hard – Here’s Why

For most, the word “maths” will stir up feelings of irritation and letdown. A comment resembling “i was so bad at math” will most certainly emerge. Usually that’s the end of how much we think about maths. For some of us it is a different story. For some, the word “maths” stirs up feelings of pride and confidence in one’s abilities; an acknowledgment of just how much maths has helped us in life and how many opportunities for education and career it exposed us to. What a difference in perspective. Why does maths not click for so many?
Maths is rarely taught cooperatively – with partners, groups or teams. Yet to succeed at it, math requires a lot of discussion, feedback and reflection. Reflection in particular is important – unlike many subjects understanding of maths comes in layers and reflection is necessary.
Maths is rarely taught globally – with the big picture in mind. It is usually taught in small micro-chunks. Relationships between topics are neglected and concepts become too patchy to remember. Some topics are learned out of context, without their real value emphasised. Algebra is a prime example. Often taught as just another topic, algebra is so much more. If mathematics were a language then algebra would be its grammar, syntax and punctuation.
Maths is rarely taught with real world relevance. Theorems and formulas become more distant from a student’s life than they really are. Maths seems useless and students resort to memorizing maths instead of understanding it.
Maths is rarely taught proactively – with teachers encouraging lots of questions and a deep understanding. Teachers have strict guidelines, large classes and limited time. The result is many, many gaps in knowledge.
Most importantly, maths is never taught strategically with a focus on the learning skills required to succeed. Unknowingly students rely on memorizing rules and processes which simply does not work for maths. Those hard word problems that we all hated cannot be answered by remembering maths. Problem solving and lateral thinking are required – unfortunately they are not explicitly taught at school.
It is no surprise that many struggle with math but it does not need to be this way.
These are just a few ideas to ponder. If you want to succeed at math, you need to stop focussing solely on the content and start focusing on your learning strategy.
Students who start to learn maths the right way can often improve by 20-35% in just months. As grades improve, further study and career opportunities become available. Students can finally join the group for whom the word “maths” stirs up feelings of pride and confidence.

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