Why Math Is Hard: Here’s Why So Many Students Fail in Math Class

Struggling with a subject is a mire from which few escape. Each failure makes the next attempt more prone to the same. That anxiety becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Essentially, starting to fail leads you to more failure which leads to diminishing returns and a lack of care. The reason why math is hard rests in this problem. It’s a subject where being a little off becomes being a lot off.

Even with calculators and the ability to look up or memorize tables and formulae, math remains tough.

Read on to learn more about why math, of all subjects, challenges so many and ways to get through it.

Why Math is Hard

Math isn’t objectively more difficult to learn than other subjects or disciplines. If that’s true, why do students struggle with mathematics?

The problem isn’t in learning the subject, it is that math has definitive answers.

Simply put, math has right and wrong answers. Every other subject has wiggle room. Even heavily mechanical fields work within a range. If you drive 51 in a 50 zone you don’t go to jail.

But if the answer is 50 and you put down 51 you are 100% incorrect. No half-credit for being near the answer.

Does that sound confusing? We’ll clarify that by dissecting two key categories of learning. 

Inertia

The biggest problem with learning math is inertia. We tend to do what we find easy and rewarding. Most people start out learning intuitively and making general connections. The specific, logical connections of math come later for many.

You may have heard that students struggling with math are just more right brain thinkers. This is a myth that needs to go away. Research shows that the brain functions across all sides.

Consider language. You start learning English and then are introduced to French. You don’t have a problem with your English brain to French brain. What you have is more familiarity with one than the other.

People hire life coaches specifically to try and reprogram their brains to follow different processes. Familiarity and repetition make us feel comfortable and secure.

Gaining momentum is the best way to learn math. Picking up specific techniques and working with self-paced programs help. Consider looking into a program like Thinkster which you can find for a fraction of the Mathnasium cost

Roadblocks

Math also presents specific roadblocks that help make it hard to gain traction. All subjects have roadblocks but some are unique to math.

Anxiety

Math anxiety is a term that builds on regular off-the-shelf anxiety. The need to perform perfectly, which math expects, creates a barrier. If you know that any mistake can cost you, every action becomes a fatal action.

This is the same type of thinking and pressure that soldiers and trauma surgeons face. Except that the end result of a wrong answer in a math class doesn’t have the dire consequences.

Dyscalculia

This specific learning disorder makes it difficult for a person to deal with shapes, numbers, and formulae. 

As these represent the core of what math is, conceptually, anyone with this disorder will struggle with math.

Learn More

Hopefully, understanding why math is hard will relieve some of the pressure that creates the problem. Like everything you learn, the effort you put in has rewards.