You shouldn’t hate math

Charlotte Ury, Editorial Board

If you’ve ever taken a math test, there’s a good chance that you received it back and felt your stomach sink. Maybe it was because you got a 95% and wanted a 98%, or maybe you flat-out failed.

This sudden feeling of relief or disappointment tends to divide the crowd; I’ve found that most people either love or hate math. 

As a math hater myself, I’ve definitely had a strenuous relationship with the subject. From crying about Math Olympiad in fifth grade to breaking down over getting a C in geometry, nothing in math has ever brought me joy.

For a long time, I didn’t understand exactly why I hated math. I liked my teachers, did decent on most tests, and loved the people in my classes. So why was there constant anxiety every time I entered the door of a math class? 

Upon reflection, I came to a simple realization: I don’t hate math—I hate feeling stupid

The environment of math class is perfect for exposing this insecurity. Failing to solve a question confirms that I’m dumber than everyone else. Making a silly mistake on the board in front of everyone makes everyone think I’m an idiot. It’s truly the ultimate “you get it or you don’t” class.

However, is it truly fair to have an intense hatred of an entire field because of my own insecurities? 

I’d never given math a fair chance. Instead of looking at it as just another 90-minute class period, I tried to go into my next math period without worrying about how others would perceive me and without the preconceived idea that I would fail. 

I’ll be honest—it was hard. I still think I look like an idiot asking my teacher to repeat his explanation or asking someone near me to help answer a question. But the key difference in this period was that I found myself caring less about what I looked like because I was beginning to understand the process. 

When I silenced my insecurities, I found I could look at math from a new perspective. I began seeing problems as challenges instead of impossible jumbles of numbers. Looking back, I’m sure a lot of my math problems would’ve been solved by listening to the SEL teacher on growth mindsets.

There’s something thrilling about getting the right answer to a difficult equation or working through a problem and understanding the steps. That’s the fun of math: the content you learn, whether it be algebra or calculus, is universal. There’s only one right answer. No matter what language you use or what country you were born in, 1 + 1 will always equal 2. There’s something gratifying about that, but my fear of math blinded me from seeing the beauty of it.

Math should be a tool for us to use, a way to learn critical thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving. Math, at any level, should be something that empowers and educates us. It’s the basis for so many other subjects in school and it surrounds us at every point in our lives. Why should we let our insecurities get in the way of knowledge? 

You can hate the environment that math classes can often put you in—stressful late-night studying, embarrassing mistakes, tests you have to explain to your parents—and the resulting feelings of shame, embarrassment, sadness and anger. And yeah, there’s always the chance of getting bad teachers, annoying classmates, or an overloaded work schedule. 

But don’t take it out on the equations themselves! Math is the complex relationship between numbers, not the feeling of stress you get before a test. You hate the math class you’re in, not math itself—and that difference is important to note.

You don’t have to walk into your math period bursting with joy or go into every test excited (if you do that, please see a therapist). You don’t have to get a career in STEM either. Just try to look at math from a new perspective.

It’s good to get out of your comfort zone and to challenge yourself, even if that makes you feel insecure or ends in failure. Next time you complain to a friend that you “hate math” , catch yourself—do you hate math or do you hate the feelings of insecurity math brings out in you? 

Tips for math:

Watch Khan Academy, or any online video site

Find practice sheets online (especially free ones)

Go to after school math help

Explain the math concept to your friends (or your pet, if you want more privacy) 

Practice, practice, practice!