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What’s your math secret?

By Murray Bourne, 03 May 2012

You may have heard of

Frank Warren started PostSecret by handing out self-addressed post cards to strangers on the street, and invited them to share whatever secret they liked. He was stunned with the response. More than half a million people have sent in postcards sharing all sorts of secrets about the lives, their loves and their activities.

What's your Math Secret?

Since mathematics makes many people very emotional, here's your chance to share your own secrets about your experiences with math (in the comments).

You don't have to use your real name, of course (or even your real email, if you do, you can get updates and people add their own secrets. Either way, your email is not published.)

You are encouraged to use an image like the original PostSecret examples, but text is fine, too!

If you want to use your own image (450x450 px maximum), upload it to somewhere on the Web and then use this code to show it:

<img src="IMAGE-URL-GOES-HERE" />

More background

Warren spoke at TED SXSW recently about how the PostSecret concept started.

So, enter your own math secret in the comments below!

I've started by sharing my own secret.

See the 12 Comments below.

12 Comments on “What’s your math secret?”

  1. Murray says:

    math secret

  2. Philip Petrov says:

    I started to fully understand the high-school math when I joined the university. I started to ... almost fully understand the bachelors math when I joined the masters program. Now when I joined the PHD program... I am unsure if I understand anything in the math (at all).

  3. Li-sa says:

    My math secret

    To study math because ___
    (a) math is useful
    (b) math is fun
    (c) of a boy ? I hope he doesn't know it...

    Another way to entertain the idea that our real motives are emotional more than they are rational. Seriously.

  4. neal says:

    my favorite 'gotcha' ... from Schaum's College Algebra.
    (i guess the secret is, 'always read the instructions at least 3X )

    when the author says,

    solve the equation

    2x-3/x-1 = 4x-5/x-1. multiplying by x-1, 2x-3 = 4x -5 or x=1.

    he means --> multiply by (x-1)/1 <--
    NOT (x-1)/(x-1) ... 'cause you are not factoring.

    this one bites me late at night ... but i have an excuse -- i'm 62 😉

  5. ahmed says:

    Most of the *math* i know, is self-learnt. When one has to work at a fulltime job, PLUS, study, as i had to do, there was no question of attending regular math classes at the undergraduate and graduation levels.
    In this process of self-learning of maths, one of the best books which i studied was ( and still is) " TEACH YOURSELF CALCULUS" by P. Abbot ( First Printing 1940)

    Such books talk to the reader/learner. That's the secret of understanding math through text-books.

    Later on in life, specially after 1982 , i have been approached by students to help them at math. They still come home every evening for coaching in maths. When one has to *teach* others, some more re-learning of a simplified creative nature occurs as an internalized process.
    The mind clears it past math concepts. One learns to teach and to stress that the small things of math are as vital as the abstruse topics of advanced maths.

    I am NOT a qualified *teacher*----but having learnt applied mathematics at a polytechnic, one appreciates in old age why those academic institution taught us 50% more math than was needed. Its a permanent intellectual investment.

    If i know math ,today , its because of having jumped into the stream of CALCULUS, without knowing how to swim !!!

    ahmed ( age 71 years)

  6. christopher says:

    I hatred maths during ma childhood... It wasnt easy to simply get to understand why i should do this quite logical subject...especially get to talk of long division....after passing thro the ordeal of punishment as a result of failing any maths test and the stress that i had to pass thro in class turns out to be that am now a PRO. In maths the secret is that mathematics is everyday life situations that we once we face them and solve the problems then i think same has to be done in the book as it was like i solve maths problem everyday.... Thanx to God i had had 100% in maths and received several awards for been the best student in maths... Its simply abt consistent practising!! 😉

  7. ije says:

    Math?!!! At first it was just another-ordinary-have-to-do subject. Well, you see it was nothing at first until such time I decided to take up a course that is somehow major in mathematics. I really didn't get it why I enrolled in such. HONESTLY!!!! Until now I find it funny. But with my journey in this road, it teach me how to analyze things and why it happen that way. It teach me that the consequences that I face is always in its balance, always a cause and an effect of everything I do. Math is not just a mere alien subject which some people claim to be difficult. Its just sometimes we fail to understand why. Thus this shows that like in our life, our life is full of mysteries. If we find it miserable then we just fail to understand it.

  8. maaike says:

    If the name - Zacolis - is used as a key, then what could it mean?

  9. ChevelleMalcolm says:

    Yeah even though math can be hard it is really important

  10. George DeMarse says:

    My math secret is I failed a number of courses in high school and hated it.

    Now--as a retiree-I am reading some history of mathematics and find the verbal terms explaining math concepts rich in a kind of literary way.

    I still don't understand it--nor do I want to sit around and solve quafratic equations--but I find it entertaining in the same way as a Waltons rerun: stilted yet developmental.

    The Sage of Wake Forest

  11. Jesse says:

    i always hated math when i was in school, i quit school after failing the 7th grade twice, not because i couldnt pass, but because i hated school,and homework so badly that i couldnt stand it anymore. i got my g.e.d. when i was in my early 30's. my wife was in college at the time and i had been helping her with her college math homework. yes believe it or not, i and my less than 7th grade education had to help my wife (4 years younger than me) with her college math.what i discovered is that during my life , i had been unconsciously teaching myself math that i never learned in school. suddenly i realized that i understood things about math that some people with far more education than i had, did not. i also realized that the problem that caused my wife not to understand things the way i did, was because she had been taught to memorize formula's, procedures, and processes, but somewhere along the way , she was not taught to understand why these things worked, as if it were unimportant to understand why, just do it like this and it will work. i personally failed the only algebra class i ever took with flying "f"'s from the very start of the class. so i have no real experience with anything other than very basic algebra and i have learned to use normal math in odd ways to get around that. so one of her problems was a word problem dealing with percentages. it basically asked this question : a woman purchases a dress that is marked 25% off, and the tax rate is 8% and her total price was $70.20 what was the original price of the dress before the discount and before the taxes ? well, not knowing how to use formulas i worked the problem and came up with the answer $86.67 . she was absolutely dumbfounded that i could come up with the answer knowing that i couldn't do algebra. so i tried for 2 hours to teach her how i did it using regular math and i was frustrated because she couldn't understand how it could be done without a formula, but i finally made her memorize the process but never was i able to make her understand how it works. that is the problem with our educational system today is that they never teach you why you do something they only teach you to memorize the formula. so here is how that problem was solved: anything as a whole is made of 100 pieces, so if it was 25% off then there was only 75 pieces, but of the 75 pieces you have to add 8% of the 75 pieces onto the total to bring you to the total after taxes. so you start out saying that $70.20 is 108% of th total cost to the woman so you divide that into 108 pieces and you get 0.65 and then you multiply that by 100 to get the price before taxes which is $65.00 and then you know that this is only 75% of the original price so you divide 65.00 by 75 and you get 0.8666666667, so then you know that this would equal 1% and if you multiply this number by 100 you get $86.66666667 , so the price of the dress before taxes and before the discount was $86.67 because you round up to the nearest penny. i tried to teach this to my daughter a few years later and she just could not wrap her mind around the concept because just like my wife but alot worse now, she has been taught to memorize everything and dosen't understand how the most basic things actually work only that if she does what she is told she will get the right answer, and she doesn't ask the question , "why" so the point is , my math secret is simply ask why and try to understand the mechanics of what you are doing and then you will understand the math

  12. Murray says:

    @Jesse: Thanks for the interesting story, Jesse!

    What worries me is the lack of regard for "alternative solutions" in some math systems. Your method is fine, and is based on fundamental understanding of the amounts involved. (Sadly, a lot of students miss out on those fundamentals and that's why we end up with financial crises).

    The issue, of course, is if you have to replicate it many (thousands?) of times, for thousands of similar, but different situations. That's where the formulas come in.

    All the best to you!

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