I have failed every math exam at school. My teachers have always pointed out I wouldn’t amount to much in maths. Yet, I am very intereste…

Answer by A Quora admin:

Please tell those teachers that I pointed out that they don’t amount to much as educators.

It’s terrible that they’d tell you that that you ”wouldn’t amount to much in maths.” Given the role of confidence in academic performance, it’s the sort of statement that can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’m sure a lot of people would fail their exams if their teachers made such remarks to them.

Since you’re interested in mathematics, I’d definitely encourage you to pursue it. I’m not going to promise you a Fields Medal. Indeed, one thing to get used to with learning math is that there will always be people who seem to be better at it than you. I’m finishing up a PhD in math at a reputable university, but it’s rare that I talk to another mathematician without coming away thinking that the other person knows more than me, learns faster than me, and is generally just  much smarter than me.

The point here is twofold. First, when you think that somebody else is better than you are at something, that is your perception, rather than objective reality. Second, we all come to the table with different backgrounds and aptitudes, and that’s okay. You can learn whatever you want. Somebody else knowing more won’t take away from that. Learning is not a zero-sum game.

Start with what you know, and gradually work your way up to more difficult things. Don’t just read about math. Solve problems. A lot of people say good things about Khan Academy. Some people prefer to work from a book, and that’s fine, too.  In my experience, the most important thing is to work through problems on your own. If you get stuck, it’s fine to talk with other people and consult references, but don’t allow yourself to be convinced that you can do a problem until you can work through it from start to end without consulting people, solutions, or other references. But also realize that it can be okay to skip over some of the hardest problems and move onto a new topic. You can come back to those later.

Finally, you might appreciate this video of a math major talking about fear and learning math.


(Quora wanted me to answer this question because it was under the Failure topic. I must be an expert on the subject.)

I have failed every math exam at school. My teachers have always pointed out I wouldn’t amount to much in maths. Yet, I am very intereste…

Posted in Matematik, Motivation.

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