Why can't I do math?


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            I have always been extremely jealous of those people who were just naturally amazing at science of math, the people who could barely study and then get a hundred on their Calculus test. Probably because I am not one of those people, I just never understood it. I have always struggled with math and science. I have had to work so hard to sometimes do even worse than someone not trying it all. However, some people might say the same thing about reading and English: two things that I love. These are things that I have never had to study too hard in, and have actually enjoyed doing. I love to read and interpret literature, and write if it's something that I am interested in. But what causes this difference? Why can I excel so easily in English, while others have trouble finishing a book in time? What makes me struggle so much on my Biology test, while someone else doesn't even have to open the book? I found one possible answer from an article l from the Huffington post.

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            The article says that some people are just born with the ability to do math well. They did a study on preschoolers who are can't do basic math yet. The study showed that some of the preschoolers had a good inherent with ""Number sense" [which] is a primitive and inborn sense that, for example, helps you determine at a glance how many people are in a movie theater." They said that those with a good number sense subsequently do better on tests that predict mathematical ability. So maybe that's my answer. I just don't have that inherent "number sense" that my peers may have.

            As I continued my research, I found similar results. However, in another article instead of "number sense" the researchers call it "approximate number system" or ANS.  It is a very similar idea, saying "ANS is an innate counting sense, present in animals, infants, and others who've had no formal training in math. Some people have a much better ANS acuity than others. Those that have this acuity wind up doing better on standardized math tests, even controlling for IQ." They also conducted tests on younger children with the same results. Those with a high ANS did better on math testing.

            It was harder for me to find a concrete reason for why some people may excel in English. A lot of what I found was the either "right brain or left brain" learner debate. In one article  it notes how different teaching styles for different "right or left brain" people can be beneficial. I started to think that maybe it's the people who are more visual learners and more left-brain people have an easier time with English, but are not as skilled when it comes to math and vice versa with right-brained people. Whatever it is, I believe it all has to do with genetics. I think that no matter if I studied for 10 hours a day I would never be able to do better than those people with number sense of approximate number system. It is unfortunate, but it is the truth. Do you agree? 

7 Comments

This is a question I can remember asking myself many times in math and science class. I can see how it would be genetics that control if you will be better at math or English. My sister was always good at everything, but she liked English much better, I would say that I hate English less then math, and therefore do better in it. To me its not the genetics that create this divide, but all it does is make the person enjoy the class more, and not necessarily understand that class better. However this could easily be a case of reverse conversation.

This is a question I can remember asking myself many times in math and science class. I can see how it would be genetics that control if you will be better at math or English. My sister was always good at everything, but she liked English much better, I would say that I hate English less then math, and therefore do better in it. To me its not the genetics that create this divide, but all it does is make the person enjoy the class more, and not necessarily understand that class better. However this could easily be a case of reverse conversation.

A lot of this has to do with the makeup of the brain and which regions work well with each other and which don't. To start with the fundamentals of mathematics, I found an article that explains the way the brain works in terms of counting and estimating. The intraparietal sulcus, or IPS, is responsible for seeing a quantity of objects and determining the size, or number so to speak. A good quote from the article urges the reader to "think about what happens when a person approaches the checkout line". The article then continues on to explain, "'you could count the number of shoppers in each line, in which case you'd be thinking discretely in terms of numerosity,' 'but if you're a hurried shopper, you probably take a quick glance at each line and pick the one that seems the shortest.'" Basically what it's saying is that there are two ways to analyze this scenario. You could stand there and actually count how many people are there, or estimate based on what your eyes are telling you. Estimation/counting is a very basic, and fundamental form of math so I assume this helps form the foundation of being a good math student or not based on whether you were good at this as a child.

Source- http://phys.org/news11854.html

This blog made me think about being 'number and science' minded might be tied to a genetic link. I found an article that talks about all the influences of a brain, which include genetic make up, upbringing, education, social conditioning. Contrary to what your blog states, left brained people are associated with the science and math thinking and right brained are associated with imagination and creativity. Maybe people who are good at math have not only the genetic make up in favor of math but also had a good learning environment growing up. Another interesting point that is consistent with the left and right brained theory is that many people that are left handed are may be more prone to being right brain dominating people. I actually am left-handed and I remember in high school over half the students in my art class were also left handed. Interesting blog!
Here's the website I mentioned: http://www.helium.com/items/364143-right-brain-and-left-brain-learning-styles-explained

I too am not a math or science person and have struggled for some time. I do believe that genetics plays a big part in determining whether you're good at certain subjects but I don't think it will inhibit your progress. You still must try, and if someone really wants to do well in a certain subject that they are struggling in, then they have to work harder and train longer to understand it. Psychologists try to ensure children these days that learning is not fixed. Intelligence can grow with practice and motivation so that our future students will be applicable in all subject courses.

I think that it's interesting you bring up the other influences that could have an effect on how we learn. I also took a social psychology course and it basically said that opposite things of what is taught in personality psychology. Social psychology says that everything that we do is because of the situation that we are put it. For instance, our personality is based on the type of mood we are in at that moment of other things that are going on in our life at that one time. As opposed to the idea that we are who we are and there is nothing we can do about it. Maybe social psychology would have a different opinion on learning and natural abilities. Maybe it's really what teachers you have had and how much your family helped. However, I know that I went to a great school and my family always helped me. But, you never know if maybe I had one amazing teacher I would have been able to achieve in math. It's definitely something to consider.

i think genetics do have an effect on weather you are good in certain subjects. growing up i was very good in probably most classes, my favorite was math, and my least favorite was probably english. But i think believe that even if the subject is difficult by putting a little effort you can overcome any obstacles. family plays a big role in overcoming this obstacles because they are the ones who are going to give you support and push to doing better. A good teacher also helps.

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