Is It True: That Some People Just Can’t Do Math?

Posted on July 9, 2016 in Is It True, Staff Picks

By Amna Kapur:

Math. A disastrous catastrophe that is doomed to befall all. Kindergarteners to senior citizens all struggle with the subject yet it is made compulsory to learn and is a significant part of our everyday lives. I’ve grappled with it all my life. Though the subject never seems to get easier, I’ve found that I enjoy the fact that mathematics is a straightforward topic. There is not really any creativity involved and perhaps that is why it is so commonly detested.

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Science says that nature has given us all the necessary brain parts to be able to comprehend math up to, at the very least, high school algebra and geometry. Almost everyone is born with the ability to (1) appreciate the concept of numbers and (2) have a sense of the fact that numbers and space are related therefore is capable of understanding arithmetic, geometry, algebra and probability deeply enough to apply it in real life situations. While it is true that some are better than others at math, there will always be some people better at a subject than others – you may be able to build cabinets better than me, but that does not mean that I am entirely incapable of learning how to construct a cabinet.

Mathematics, in all its glory is beautiful and the pure logic and simplicity of the subject is understood by few. Perhaps this is because math is taught by rote memorisation, or maybe because it is a cumulative subject. Not understanding one topic leaves you confused about the rest making you feel inadequate. In addition, a lot of people do not believe that the math learnt at school will actually be put into use later in life and while it is true that x=(-b±√(b^2-4ac))/2a will likely not come in handy while doing your taxes, it also helps you build logical thinking skills. Such reasons tend to make most people reach the conclusion that math is useless and they needn’t spend too much time or effort on it hence giving up and sighing, “I can’t do math.”

There are of course actual math disabilities, the most prominent being dyscalculia. This essentially means that the parts of your brain that do math for you do not function properly resulting in you not being able to comprehend math problems. Often called math dyslexia, it supposedly affects 6-7% of the population. However, just because you cannot easily calculate the vertex of a parabola does not mean that you suffer from dyscalculia. But if it is hard for you to grasp the idea that six clocks are the same number of objects as six bananas or six trucks, chances are you may have to see a doctor.

Therefore, unless you have an actual disorder, you can do math! Believe it or not, your brain does have the competence to process formulas and theories. So the next time you think that math is beyond you, remember that science is on your side. Science says you can do it, and science is (almost) always right.

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