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Algebra is the favorite math activity

By Murray Bourne, 12 Mar 2008

A recent poll on Interactive Mathematics indicated the following about readers' preferences. The question was...

What is your favorite math activity?

Doing algebra: 39%

None of these: 22%

Drawing graphs: 15%

Doing calculator: 14%

Doing geometry: 9%

Total votes: 1000

This is curious to me because nearly all students respond negatively to algebra lessons, but are more motivated when there is graph drawing or even geometry involved, since they get to do something with their hands.

OK, I know, this is not a scientific poll in any way and could be suffering from several distortions.

A lot of people (22%) responded with "none of these". I'm wondering if I left out something vital from my choices? Or are these respondents saying they don't like doing any math activity? This is actually remarkably consistent with the 22% (yes, the same) who said they didn't like math at all in an earlier poll. See earlier poll results.

Do any of you have any thoughts on this? What math activity do you like doing and why?

See the 17 Comments below.

17 Comments on “Algebra is the favorite math activity”

  1. Carlo Vergara says:

    I always did best in geometry. Proving those theorems was like playing a game. Trigonometry was good, too. Algebra didn't do much for me--maybe because it was too abstract.

  2. MathMom says:

    Puzzles πŸ™‚

    Was it supposed to be a classroom math activity?

  3. Murray says:

    Carlo: Thanks for your input. Also, thanks for "Tulibu dibu douchoo" on your blog - I laughed until I cried...

    MathMom: Good to hear from you. I didn't include 'puzzles' - oops!

    I had both 'in' and 'out' of class in mind. Unfortunately, all 'quick and dirty' polls suffer from the necessity of using ultra-brief questions.

  4. JackieB says:

    The most fun I've had this year has been trig identity proofs (does this count as a puzzle?).

  5. Murray says:

    Hi Jackie. Trig identity proofs are an interesting challenge. There's something very satisfying about that right hand side appearing...

  6. Priyanshu Agrawal says:

    i hate algebra or simply calculations.
    i like calculus in maths....
    and drawing graphs also too much....

  7. Murray says:

    Hi Prinyanshu and thanks for your comment. It's interesting that you like calculus while hating algebra. Do you mean that you don't like pure algebra (has no application) but you do like calculus (which has application)?

    Yeh, I also like graph drawing πŸ™‚

  8. sara says:

    actually i was surprised too ,, because i dont really like algebra it depend on rules u should know ,, but geometry its the best branch of math because its like agame a puzzle ,, it needs thinking ,, i think the most of the students dont like to think they want to get a princible or a rule and get rest ... lol !!

  9. Natalie says:

    Trig, algebra, and geometry run together so much that I cannot see one without the other. I enjoy them all equally.
    I least enjoy the calculator, its more fun and less like cheating when I can figure out how the graph looks by looking at the equation πŸ™‚

  10. Natalie says:

    ps i love calc

  11. vlorbik says:

    algebra rocks.
    undergrads quite often don't know it ...
    but there's plenty of algebra beyond
    pre-calculus; lots of very smart people
    making a living thinking up *new* algebra
    (i once sort of aspired to be one *of* 'em
    and wrote a dissertation in algebra ...

    existence proof.
    sophmore year i was in a linear algebra course.
    at that point in my life, i kicked a skateboard
    around town as my basic means of transportation.
    skateboards were rare in that part of the country
    back then, so apparently the instructor had mentioned
    to his family that there was this weird kid in his
    linear algebra class who moved around on a skater.
    anyhow, long story longer (the point *is* approaching),
    i ran into *his* kid (literally a kid ... 13, say)
    in the student union and he asked me,
    "are you taking algebra?"
    and my immediate knee-jerk reaction
    was along the lines "heck, no! i took that
    back in *high school*, for heck sake!".
    but then he told me about this skateboarder
    his dad had mentioned and it dawned on me ...

  12. Murray says:

    Sara: I've also noticed that many students prefer to be given a formula and all they have to do is plug the numbers in, rather than having to analyse a geometry problem. But it is a good feeling once you figure it out!

    Natalie: I also enjoy mentally graphing an equation - and calculus - just like you. Actually, I hardly ever use a calculator these days, since I started using mathematics software.

    Vlorbik: Good to see you again. Thanks for the link to your thesis abstract. Wow, yes, you were thinking up new algebras! Have you revisited those ideas since?

    Thanks also for your story. While students talk about teachers all the time, they don't realise that the teachers are talking about the students too...

  13. abdul says:


    i am happy with your reply


  14. Josh says:

    Geometry is my favorite...the variety of formulas for spheres, circles, lateral surface area, etc. was enjoyable for me.
    Algebra is fun if I succeed, but when I do poorly I have tended to dislike it. (Bottom line is that I like areas of study that I do well in)
    Using the calculator is helpful, and I enjoy using it especially for simple calculations that would take longer to do mentally or on paper. Like 1448\8 for instance. Plus, it cuts down on errors!
    That's my take on it...

    Have a good week,

  15. m.s.umer says:


    i am so much loving calculus i want to learn
    from net anybody knowing useful sites
    please let me inform


  16. Kelly says:

    I fall into the 22% of people who like "none of these" if that number represents the percentage of people who utilize this site simply because they have to refresh their memory of the miserable, horrible, time-wasting, useless subject of math and absolutely hate every, single, solitary second spent on this demon subject.

  17. zac says:

    @Kelly: I'm reminded of the quotes:

    "Whether you think you can or think you can't - you are right." [Henry Ford]

    "Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it." [Lou Holtz]

    I'm happy to help you learn math, but not if I can't because you are fighting it all the way.

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