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Bugman

Where to begin with mathematics?

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I've had a problem with mathematics my whole life, i'm slow, very slow, fingers where made for people like me to count on, as i grew up i more or less ignored mathematics, using a calculator whenever needed and generally pretending the elephant in the room of me sort of being dyslexic with numbers (assuming such a condition exists) wasn't sitting there looking at me, and don't even ask me to add up in front of someone, i go red-faced, panic, and all thought of counting or problem-solving leaves me.

Well i want to change, i want to be that weedy man that stands outside the metaphorical cerebral gym, watching all the egg-heads through the outside window bench-pressing three or four times their own weight in mathematical problems, i want to walk in, start on the smallest dumb-bells and work my way up.

But where to begin? I'd like to start as near the bottom as possible and slowly move on once i'm sure i got the very basics right, time is not an issue for me, i just want a solid foundation, any ideas guys, any books or websites that deal with numerically challenged people like me? i just want to find out for certain if i can improve my maths or if it's a problem i'm stuck with, having avoided the issue for so many years, i don't know if it's lack of use/practice, or something more than that.

Edited by Bugman

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Speaking as a former maths teacher, I'd stay start as low as possible and work up slowly. Never really looked for any good sites, but I'll have a glance around for you. Good luck!

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i am NOT a math teacher....but love math and science Do you cook? Math is like following a "recipe", or algorithms. Once you have these down....math still is challenging, but it becomes FUN....something you "need" to figure out and you may not want to give up. Depending upon your age and geographic location; math "problems" may have been used when trying to teach you early math. Think of them as exercises instead....waking up that part of the brain. People who practice math lifelong...have a decreased risk of Alzheimer's Disease....good reason to.......gosh, I forgot what I was going to say.....and what were we talking about? i applaud your lifelong learning... have a good day and enjoy the fun of math....(chemistry is even better) ;)

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Found this on the BBC site, but I couldn't find much else. This goes up to GCSE level I think, 'O'-level for the older among us (Brits, anyway).

http://www.bbc.co.uk/learning/subjects/maths.shtml

YBF...sure I'll help you, but I'll need access to your bank account. OK?

I'd recommend also finding real-life practical applications of the pure maths you learn. Think up some real-life scenarios with regard to probability etc. and try to work them out, like what the probability of picking having three-of-a-kind in poker etc. The sports pages in any newspaper are also full of practical applications of maths. Find as many tests as you can and keep doing problem after problem. Maybe find an online study group. I haven't looked, but the internet being what it is, there may be something.

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But where to begin?

That depends on your goal. You talk about "mathematics", but I get the feeling what you really mean is "arithmetics", i.e. working with numbers. On the other hand, Pandaazuma's link deals with the huge field of mathematical concepts and theories, most of which are not really helpful in everyday life.

To put it another way, do you want to learn how to lay bricks or do you want to study architecture?

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Thank you guys i appreciate the help, to give you an idea of how my maths skills are, if i go to the supermarket and i have 15 items or more i don't bother trying to add up in my mind, i can't seem to hold the numbers in my head until i've finished the entire calculation, for example lets say i have six items, two at 90 pence each, two at 50 pence each, and two at 95 pence.

My thought process of doing what should be very simple calculations for everyone else goes something like this, ok add the two items at 90 pence, that's £1.80, now add the two items at 50 pence each, ok that's a pound, now finally i say ok, two times 95 is £1.90, at that point however, i struggle to remember the answer to the first sum which was £1.80, so whilst i should be adding them all together, i now have to start again, the problem seems to be with memory, but because i have intentionally avoided maths like the plague, i don't know if this has come about for that reason, or if there is something wrong physically with me, i'm hoping i can improve the elasticity of my brain in that area because frankly it seems to be withered to an embarassing extent.

I have avoided thinking about my poor maths skills and tried to live on without doing anything about it, but i realise it's let me down badly so i'm going to try and rectify it, the problem with maths as i see it is that it's not like reading where you learn the alphabet, sound out the letters and then move on in a fairly linear manner, maths seems to have a very small base then it springs out in all directions like a tree.

To answer Jakusotsu i think i most definitely want to brick-lay, i doubt i'l ever get to architecture but if i can make a shed i'l be happy hehe.

Edited by Bugman

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Ah, I thought you wanted to do it all formally from scratch, but if it's just for everyday usefulness, it's mostly arithmetic that you want. I think you're fine because you said you can add up each of the separate sums individually and your problem is forgetting where you were. So you have the ability but just need the practice. Find a book or site with hundreds of similar calculations and just practice and practice...you will improve.

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By the way, a great game for arithmetic is darts...working stuff out like how to get to a good double finish is great practice.

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My thought process of doing what should be very simple calculations for everyone else goes something like this, ok add the two items at 90 pence, that's £1.80, now add the two items at 50 pence each, ok that's a pound, now finally i say ok, two times 95 is £1.90, at that point however, i struggle to remember the answer to the first sum which was £1.80, so whilst i should be adding them all together, i now have to start again, the problem seems to be with memory, but because i have intentionally avoided maths like the plague, i don't know if this has come about for that reason, or if there is something wrong physically with me, i'm hoping i can improve the elasticity of my brain in that area because frankly it seems to be withered to an embarassing extent.

You're doing it wrong there. While combining identical items (two times 0.90, two times 0.50, two times 0.95) is actually quite clever, don't get too far ahead by solving these things independently. Always start at the beginning and move forward step by step without taking too many shortcuts that will lead to confusion.

Two items at 0.90 -> 1.80 (so far so good)

Now you add the two items at 0.50 = 1.00 immediately -> 2.80 , then forget about the 1.80 and keep in mind only the 2.80

...and so on, step by step. It's a chore, and it's boring, but all but the most gifted people do it that way, and I'm sure you will do just fine once you got some practice.

Edit: Oh, and what helps me doing these kind of calculations is "speaking" the numbers I want to memorize silently. Don't be afraid to use your tongue as an 11th finger.

Edited by Jakusotsu
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By the way, a great game for arithmetic is darts...working stuff out like how to get to a good double finish is great practice.

frankly that is a brilliant idea, i have somewhat of a wondering attention it has to be said, and to mix learning with a game is perfect for me, i'm ordering myself a dart-board right now.

My thought process of doing what should be very simple calculations for everyone else goes something like this, ok add the two items at 90 pence, that's £1.80, now add the two items at 50 pence each, ok that's a pound, now finally i say ok, two times 95 is £1.90, at that point however, i struggle to remember the answer to the first sum which was £1.80, so whilst i should be adding them all together, i now have to start again, the problem seems to be with memory, but because i have intentionally avoided maths like the plague, i don't know if this has come about for that reason, or if there is something wrong physically with me, i'm hoping i can improve the elasticity of my brain in that area because frankly it seems to be withered to an embarassing extent.

You're doing it wrong there. While combining identical items (two times 0.90, two times 0.50, two times 0.95) is actually quite clever, don't get too far ahead by solving these things independently. Always start at the beginning and move forward step by step without taking too many shortcuts that will lead to confusion.

Two items at 0.90 -> 1.80 (so far so good)

Now you add the two items at 0.50 = 1.00 immediately -> 2.80 , then forget about the 1.80 and keep in mind only the 2.80

...and so on, step by step. It's a chore, and it's boring, but all but the most gifted people do it that way, and I'm sure you will do just fine once you got some practice.

Edit: Oh, and what helps me doing these kind of calculations is "speaking" the numbers I want to memorize silently. Don't be afraid to use your tongue as an 11th finger.

You're right, seems so simple once told to me but you have it spot on, your way is much better and this is how i'l do it from now on.

Thanks guys i'm really very grateful for this, you may find it strange but this is the first time i've told anyone, it's a weight off me because it's an impairment to live with, my father went through something similar but with reading and writing, he wasn't comfortably literate till his early 30's round about the time i was born, and he made a habit of reading to me often, he didn't want me to end up at a disadvantage like him so i can express myself well enough, but numbers have always had me, well, in fear.

Thanks again :-)

Edited by Bugman

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Hey Bugman, I don't know how old you are, but when I attended secondary school in Scotland, arithmetic was still taught as a seperate subject from maths (I hate maths). There were all sorts of numpties in my year who couldn't count for toffee. As soon as they were old enough to pretend they were old enough to go into bookies and pubs, their ability to calculate odds on an accumulator bet, or as Panda suggested, their ability to subtract from 501 at darts improved out of sight. I'm not suggesting that you should start being more than a regular at your local or develop a gambling addiction, but you you can get plenty of puzzle books with arithmetical quizzes, and maybe even, watch Countdown.

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By the way, a great game for arithmetic is darts...working stuff out like how to get to a good double finish is great practice.

Telling a darts newbie to immediately go for double-out mode is kinda cruel, you know. :-)

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My calculating ability improved immensely when I had to calculate the mass of a sample by deducting the mass of empty pan from the mass of the full one. I got so good at it, I could immediately write down the result... but a few years away from weighing, and I'm back to slow. So, it's all down to practice.

I find that the grouping makes things easier: calculating 3 + 14 + 27 + 7 + 16, I'd group 3+7 (or 3+27) and 14+16 to get the round sum, and then add the remaining. But I think it's best to develop these kinds of shortcuts by yourself. My suggestion is to find a primary school arithmetics workbook (you can pretend you're buying it for your nephew or somesuch), and start working through the problems. You can probably also find arithmetic problems on the web, but I still recommend you solve them on paper. Once you've been going through them for a while, your brain will learn how to do to it faster.

Also, practice every time you're in a shop. Look at the prices as the cashier "pings" your stuff in, and try to calculate the total. Round up the cents (over 50c = 1$, less then 50c = 0$) to keep it simple. And don't get discouraged! I still mess up often enough.

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My dartboard came in today, thankfully it wasn't the inflatable type, so far i've made two holes in the door frame and about seven in the wall, seven plus two, nine! it's a start :)

On a (slightly) more serious note i've started playing but i take quite a while to take a shot lol, at the supermarket i've got a new rule that i don't go to the check-out till i've added up mentally what is in my basket using Jakusotsu's method and today i was correct, so i look a bit odd standing in the same spot for about ten minutes with a glazed look on my face but i'm not high i'm just counting! the fizzy drinks section i find most conducive to the incredible calculations whizzing through my brain, (imagine the number 4 on crutches, struggling uphill against the wind) the fruit section though, i just can't concentrate. (lemon joke)

Basically i'm trying to use accurate arithmatic wherever i can, no more vague guesses, i force myself to be exact no matter how long it takes.

Thanks again all of you for the kind help, you guys are the best :-)

Edited by Bugman
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There is a condition similar to dyslexia known as dysgraphia (often subsumed within the description of dyslexia) that causes people difficulty with numbers similar to what you describe. There are a range of things you can do to alleviate the types of issues you talk about. About one in ten people suffer some form of dyslexic issue although most don't know it and never get an official diagnosis. Have a look here for more information:

http://www.dyslexiasw.com/

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There is a condition similar to dyslexia known as dysgraphia (often subsumed within the description of dyslexia) that causes people difficulty with numbers similar to what you describe.

As far as I know, dysgraphia is having trouble writing. Problems with arithmetics is referred to a dyscalculia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyscalculia

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There is a condition similar to dyslexia known as dysgraphia (often subsumed within the description of dyslexia) that causes people difficulty with numbers similar to what you describe.

As far as I know, dysgraphia is having trouble writing. Problems with arithmetics is referred to a dyscalculia.

http://en.wikipedia....iki/Dyscalculia

Embarrassed now because I used to work for a dyslexia charity and used to train people in this stuff.. If my ex-colleagues saw this I'd be drummed out of the dyslexia brotherhood.

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My boss from a previous job who i respected highly had dyslexia, he would cover one eye when writing, it must have helped with concentration somehow though i never asked about it, he would give me letters to proof-read for him if it was important as he didn't use a computer, his counting abilities though were really good, able to calculate prices and discounts all in his head pretty much instantly, with regard to the discalculia (sounds a bit like a vampire) i may well have it, i think i'l give myself a little more time to practice first and see if my speed improves before i consider finding out more about it.

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