Can one achieve a math brain?

Hi All,
I’ve seen others on here with questions on math so I’m hoping others can relate to my dilemma. I have never been a math scholar. I haven’t taken math since 10th grade geometry. I’ve always gotten B’s and C’s in math. I always assumed that I sucked at math and honestly, didn’t put in tons of effort (even as a kid I struggled with multiplication!). I had honors classes in English and more “reading based” classes so I stuck to those. I’ve done the same in college (dropped out of college early in life due a surprise baby and now 7 years later I’m back as a sophomore!).
I’ve done well in my “reading based” classes but I’ve decided it’s time to tackle math. Not suprising, I tested into one class below college algebra (actually, that’s better then I thought I’d do!). I’ve been reviewing basic algebra and am doing okay with it (and am finding now it’s sort of fun!).
Is math something a former “math moron” can overcome? Or is it really something that you have to have a certain apptitude for? I don’t want to kid myself into thinking I’ll be able to master this one day when I’ve always struggled with it if that’s just not the case. I mean, I had to do a review of fractions b/c I had forgotten how to do them it had been so long (of course it was a piece of cake once I reviewed - I’m not that lost!). I don’t mind working hard, but will hard work eventually pave the way through my brain to understand this stuff?
I took a look at my husband’s college chem book and holy cow! It scared the heck out of me.
So any realistic thoughts - can a former math moron learn to master mathematical skills? I know to master the premed requirements, I have to master the math. Am I in over my head???
-Christy (math phobic)

I think you can.
I have always had a math phobia and am currently doing pretty well in physics. I actually like math now.

Disclaimer, I was a math major in college… though, honestly, I’m still not sure why. The people I majored with all seemed far more brilliant than myself and had far more passion for it, too.
That being said, I don’t think you have to have some sort of math code hardwired into your brain from birth in order to succeed. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t come easier to some people that others, but I think a lot of it depends on your attitude towards it. I know for myself in college I spent far more time whining and moaning about how I didn’t understand anything than actually studying or working towards understanding, which certainly didn’t help my grades at all. Are you taking the class you tested into now or do you plan to take it later? I would suggest following your school’s prescribed order to whatever level you need or desire. The foundations are really important, so take them at a pace that you can keep up with. Read the sections in the book that will be discussed before they are lectured on and work through any examples in the text on your own. You might not understand everything you read, but at least it won’t be brand new to you when you get to class and you will hopefully get more out of the lecture. Then try to do your homework as soon after class as possible, that way you have plenty of time to deal with anything you don’t understand and can take advantage of the professor’s office hours or TA/TF office hours and any help rooms that exist if you are having trouble. Just be sure that you really give the homework a fair try before asking others for help. Oftentimes someone can give you a hint on a problem and you understand it for the brief moment it takes to start the problem, but you realize later that you didn’t really learn anything. Sometimes by struggling a few times on your own you either have the ah-hah moment of understanding yourself or when you finally get the hint you need it sticks better in your brain. At least, that’s what I found.
The biggest thing I think is to destroy the notion that you are a “math moron”. Sure, maybe you struggled with it in the past, but there is no reason why you can’t succeed now. Just take the time you need to get comfortable with the material and take advantage of all the resources that are available to help you. You will do fine! We have faith in you.

I have the same fears. I am attempting to do my science prereqs and found I can’t go any further until I repeat Intermediate Algebra because I scored a “D” 15 years ago I need to get a “C” or better before I can take College Algebra. I’m a computer programmer by profession and use math all the time. I somehow have a fear of taking math in a class environment. I found a math website that has been quite helpful so I will share it with you. Math Notes
It has basic college math and lots of algebra problems. Hopefully this will help you. Good Luck!!

Everyone’s brain is different, but I found that after reviewing algebra and remembering how to multiply and add fractions (nope, I couldn’t remember either!), I was able to tackle chemistry. I had to be more careful and probably I made more mistakes, but this isn’t nearly as difficult conceptually as it is psychologically. Once you’re actually using the math in science courses–as opposed to doing it in the abstract–you’ll find that you learn what you need as you do it. Do a lot of homework problems and you’ll be just fine.
Good luck!
Joe Wright

Yes! Yes! Yes! Your math story is about like mine! Couldn’t do Alg. in High School, took it again in college 10 years later. I had homeschooled a teen in between there somewhere and reviewed some basic alg. before taking my math placement at the college. I had reviewed enough to get into Intermediate Alg! But when I got to class they gave me a pre-test in the class and I didn’t even answer one question! Got a “0”! Finished the class with an A+.
You can do this. Since then I have asked anyone who will listen what they think about math learning. My theory, which I have had profs agree with (most notably my Chem prof) is this: Some people’s brains just can’t do algebra before a certain age. For me it clicked about age 19, well after high school. I was in a college pharmacology for Vet Techs class and the proverbial light went on and suddenly I understood why people look for X and Y and Z and why anyone would $@#*&#@!& care about X, Y and or Z!
Once you “get” algebra, Chemistry won’t be so scary. Physics was the hardest class for me, not because of the Physics theories but because of the algebraic intuition that it seemed to require. I still don’t have math intuition, but I can now say I am math competent. I had a fantastic Alg. instructor in college which helps immensely.
Fast forward … I finished my degree and pre-reqs with straight A’s and have been accepted into 2 med schools so far!

I second all these comments. Early on I was not a natural with math. I finally got it by using the TAs (going to every help session offered) and doing all the problems and keeping up by doing something every day. Eventually I took some advanced math as part of my chem degrees and got A’s (multivariable calc, differential equations even). It also help very much with Physics.

Christy, I feel your pain.
I too, am not a math person and have always struggled with it. I was always an “English person,” never a “math person.” Usually, got C’s in high school math (barely!), a few D’s and even some F’s.
As an undergrad, I never had to take a straight math class. I had to take logic, which was classified under philosophy at my school, and I got an A in that. I had to take statistics, which was classified under psychology so it wasn’t a math-based stats class (thank god), and I got a D in that. My other undergrad D’s were in economics, which had a lot of math problems in them. (I went to all available help sessions for all of those classes/saw profs/TAs but nothing helped).
I tested into College Algebra last year at NVCC, where I’m currently taking the math prereqs. This class was pass/fail so I passed. I had an awesome teacher, who I wish I had now! I tried taking a compressed PreCalculus class last spring that also included the Trig & Analytical Geometry in the same semester. I was in way over my head so dropped the class. I am now taking the same class only spread out over 2 semesters. (Next semester includes the Trig & Geo).
I do all of the assigned homework problems and show up for help sessions, but I continue to struggle. I am definately putting in the effort, but it’s been a discouraging semester for me. Of our 2 tests, I got a 68 on one and a 77 on one. At least I’m improving…
I wish I could help you overcome your math phobia, but I’m still suffering from it myself.

Wow, guys! Thanks for all your input and links, etc. It seems as though many people have overcome the fear of numbers!
I’m finding that it is easier now then it was when I was in high school. Things that boggled me then are coming pretty quickly now. But then again, I’m working on an upper high school level algebra… sigh… (I’ve been working with math books and work sheets to try and learn this stuff again). My dh is a mech engineer and took many years of calc and beyond, physics, chem, thermodynamics, etc so it’s nice having an in-house tutor (although we think so differently he’s boggled as to why I want to know why something needs to be defined as a polynomial).
Anyway, thanks again. I think I’ll keep plugging away and take my pre-college algebra class (blush!) and work hard and hope for the best!
PS - Stacy, sorry to hear you have the same math struggles I do and I hope they turn around for both of us. I’ve been reading a couple of books about conquering math phobia that have some decent ideas in them thus far. I’m hoping it will help solve my mental block! Good luck to us both!