The point of maths

There was a thread on here last summer about the point of learning Pythagoras’ Theorem and how useful maths has been for real life. Here is an attempt to answer it.

Best wishes

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good post steve i read to the end (can i have a sticker please) in real life i failed my O-level maths and had to do a resit. the best thing is that we (4 carols a carolyn and a couple of boys) had tutors who gave us special lessons. one of these was a teacher i had had before and like you said, she would just raise her voice if we weren’t getting it. then her younger brother, who was a student teacher, took over. he was painfully shy, with a tendency to blush, and patient to the nth degree. he would continue explaining things in his quiet voice until the light came on. then he would smile and the sun came out. i’m forever grateful to him.

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Carole, that reminds me of a college lecturer we called The Mad Monk because of his bald spot and bushy beard. If one of the class didn’t understand something, this lecturer didn’t try to find out where the problem lay. He’d go back to first principles, talking to the student as if s/he was an idiot. There was no attempt to clarify any aspect of the subject (I can’t remember what he taught), just a bald statement of the information he’d given before and which hadn’t been understood. It often happened that a group of students would go over the problem area later to help the struggling student.

The cartoon of the sleeping students reminds me of another lecturer we had. He was colourless in more ways than one, and delivered his lectures in a barely audible monotone. Students fell asleep during his lectures and he rididn notice!

That resonates with me too, Carole. I always found maths very difficult, and it was harder still when I had one of those teachers who thought that slow learners like me were being deliberately stupid, when in fact we longed to get it right but just weren’t very good at it. I wish you had posted your nice young student teacher over to Belfast!


Steve, as always brilliant. I failed Maths O level (showing my age!) but a few years ago decided that nowadays it’s a vital exam so I did a GCSE in evening class. The difference between my ‘new’ teacher and the dreaded Mrs Steele (who if you didn’t ‘get it’ the first time meant that you were a lost cause) was amazing. I realized that I knew and remembered a lot more than I expected. I completely understand the necessity of all aspects of Maths apart from … probability. That wasn’t covered back in the day and as Maths is logic based why the bleep is it included now!!! I now have Maths GCSE by the way! :slight_smile:

I failed maths O level too. I had and still have a problem with why a plus and a minus equals a minus, while a minus and a minus equals a plus (oh please don’t explain it, I’ve managed well enough in my ignorance). I was good at maths until senior (or upper) school. Then I got lost. I never retook it. Then when I started a psychology A level the teacher started on statistics. And I didn’t understand. And she just about stopped short of calling me thick. I gave up.

I later managed a degree (not in anything mathematical) and worked in a field that included needing to use basic maths at least, even slightly more than just adding up.

I still have ‘blah, blah, blah’ go through my head at mathematical questions on University Challenge (don’t most of us?)

I could have done with a teacher like you Steve. But I think I’ve managed alright without a maths O level.