Math: Why does it have to be so hard?


I’ve gotten to the part of life where my parents can no longer understand my Algebra 1 homework. How can this be if math is necessary in adult life? Perhaps, what they meant was that math is necessary if you want to get to adult life. As it is, the current way we teach math only sticks when necessary, and as a means of survival. Evidence stemming all the way to one’s early memories of solving timed times tables, however, shows that the way we learn math must be changed, and our goals for learning math must be more clearly presented. 

Studies have shown that with our nation’s current math curriculums, teachers have been forced to create a learning environment that breeds an anxiety known as math anxiety. According to the Journal of Experimental Psychology General, Jenifer, Jalisha & Rozek, Christopher & Levine, Susan & Beilock, Sian, students who develop math anxiety often display math avoidance behaviors, which sets them up for failure in future mathematical performances. 

However, many students are unaware of this issue, so they instead place blame on themselves for incompetence. Math anxiety further worsens these thoughts and leads to a fear of failure in the subject. These issues contribute to the ongoing struggle of mental health in students today, and should not be overlooked.

We can all agree that understanding the fundamentals of multiplication, percentages, fractions, and ect is necessary for survival in today’s world, especially with today’s economy, but subjects like pre-calculus, or geometry can be seen as unnecessary for many fields of work.

Studying these subjects, however, develops our critical thinking and ability to problem solve. 

Many students don’t view it like that though, and instead criticize the curriculum for not preparing them “correctly”. This is true, in that the system currently in place prioritizes speed over our ability to solve problems. Timed problem solving only rewards students for memorization, and places pressure on students to be fast, whether they understand the topic or not. 

By recognizing these issues, we can begin to adapt a new system that appeals to all learning styles, and a curriculum that sticks with students even through adulthood. Ignoring math anxiety and its effects will only continue the tortured learning process we have in place, leaving students who are uncomfortable in the subject to suffer. 

Math is a complex universal language that can connect us with the stars above. Everyone should have the opportunity to learn it in a way that makes sense for every individual. Math shouldn’t have to be so hard.