Emily Fuhrman for Quanta Magazine

Chapter 4: SHARE

Do You Love or Hate Math and Science?

Quanta Magazine invites readers to share about their early math and science learning experiences and to explore the interactive survey results.

35

When did you first fall in love with math or start to hate it? What about science? Did a particular class or subject in school thrill or frustrate you? Did your teachers inspire or discourage you? Part four of Quanta Magazine’s Pencils Down series invites you to share your story and explore everyone’s data points in the interactive graphic above.

If you completed the survey in one of the previous articles, no need to submit your data again. Find your hexagon by adding ?code=# to the end of this page’s URL, where # is the code number you were asked to save (do not include the # symbol). If you’re responding to the survey via the Submit Data button above, save the URL with your code number. All submissions are moderated, and we will try to update the results at least once an hour during normal business hours (Eastern Daylight Time). Switch between the math survey (in blue) and the science survey (in purple) by clicking the Science Data and Math Data buttons.

To be sure, this is a thoroughly unscientific survey of a self-selecting population. Yet we hope its value transcends catharsis. Perhaps some clues or meaningful patterns will emerge from your collective anecdotes, which can be filtered by gender, grade level (when you formed your opinion about math or science) and country. Here’s what five of the more than 1,000 initial participants said about math:

Charlie, a 77-year-old American, has loved math since college. He wrote that he “hated math in [grades] 1-12. First day of university math was a wonderful surprise, and the joy built throughout college and grad school.” He said he went on to become a mathematician and computer scientist, and he still does math every day and is now “developing an enrichment course for gifted senior high school students.”

Karen, 57, from Canada, also loves math but said, “I wasn’t much good at arithmetic because I was always in a rush and made silly mistakes, and because no one bothered to teach me about the underlying structure of mathematics, or even that there was one. I loved grade 10 math because of the teacher and because we studied geometry and Euclidean proofs, which I found very beautiful and elegant, and which are sadly no longer taught.”

Luke Simonds, 27, of the United States said he feels OK about math now, but that he “developed a very negative attitude toward math starting in about the fourth grade. I think that what drove that most was the speed drills or ‘math minutes’ where we were asked to solve a certain number of equations as quickly as possible. I was and continue to be terrible at math when under pressure like that, which then soured me toward math in later grades, and I never put in enough effort to become truly proficient. I’m more curious now, but of course have less time to sit down and learn.”

Deniz, an 8-year-old Australian, hates math, saying simply that “it is boring and difficult.”

A 16-year-old American boy was even more pessimistic, saying that he hates math because “the math that’s being taught has no relevance to my life and the teachers themselves [are] saying, ‘Learn it now to get through it, but after college you’ll never need it.’”

We want to hear your stories. Please add your hexagon and pass this along.

View Reader Comments (35)

Leave a Comment

Reader CommentsLeave a Comment

  • The code number I was asked to save? Uh oh. Don't remember anything like that. Now to find an optimization strategy for finding my hexagon, if it exists.

  • @Ken: I don't know if this is you, but I poked around and found a "Ken" at ?code=273. For anyone who lost the code #, a good strategy is to narrow it down with the filters grade + gender or gender + country.

  • > When did you first fall in love with math or start to hate it? What about science?

    I fell in love with science in about the fifth grade. Why? Because I heard that science was important and good to understand in adult life and, as is common, I was trying to grow into a competent adult. Also I understood that the world was challenging and risky, that science was solid, powerful, reliable knowledge, and hoped that knowledge of science would let me better meet the challenges and lower the risks of adult life in the world.

    For math, I started to like it a lot in the ninth grade, continued to like and study it, …, got a Ph.D. in applied math, and still love math.

    Why? I was in the same school in grades 1-12 so soon developed a reputation among the teachers. In grades 1-8, that reputation was that I was a very poor student. E.g., my eighth grade teacher fervently, personally, one on one urged me never to take anymore math. Why? I had poor accuracy in, say, multiplying two four digit numbers and that was because my handwriting, as is common for boys of that age, was awful. For the 'math', I understood that right away.

    In algebra in the ninth grade, I discovered that easily I could teach that stuff to myself directly from the text, learn it well, and do well on the tests. And, with math, if my work was correct, then I could do well no matter what my reputation was — no teacher could criticize me successfully. If I could work the math problems, and I could, easily, then no teacher in the world could successfully give me less than an A, no matter how much they hated to do so. I had a way to defend myself against teachers, nearly all of whom very much wanted to hurt me and from the first grade through my Ph.D. dissertation (got some nasty and incompetent comments from a prof that really just hated me, for no reason — he took some of the work in my dissertation and let it be the foundation of dissertations for some more of his students) often did, a lot.

    I liked math: It was great fun to be good at it, to be able, usually just from the text, be able to do the hardest work easily.

    So, I wanted to learn science, in grade school chemistry and physics, from my sophomore year on in college, physics (by then for my objectives didn't think so much of chemistry), knew that math was the crucial prerequisite for doing well in physics, knew that I could do well in math, well enough to protect myself from teachers who were eager to hurt me, and could also do well in physics. I understood physics easily and quickly.

    After college freshman physics, I encountered a serious problem with physics: By then I understood in fairly clear terms what solid math looked like, saw the math done in physics as often a mess, not solid at all (e.g., in quantum mechanics, "A wave function is differentiable and also continuous" — of course it's continuous you fool; every differentiable function is continuous), and was afraid that if I did my math that way in physics I would again be vulnerable to attack from teachers. I tried to do the math of physics well, but I didn't have time; redoing all the math in physics just took too much time.

    So, I concentrated on just math via math departments, with the intention of learning very well the math I needed for physics and then returning to physics.

    I'd learned abstract algebra through, say, my undergraduate honors paper in group representation theory, but when a math department wanted me to dig into Galois theory, I did so quickly, saw it as from irrelevant down to worthless for physics, and said "no more of that stuff".

    In all of this, I had to view most of my teachers as my enemies, out to hurt me — no joke, they often did, from first grade through my Ph.D. dissertation, often, a lot.

    By the tenth grade, and much more strongly as I went on, as the teachers kicked dirt in my face, I still knew that I had learned a lot of math quite well, was doing well learning a lot more also quite well, that I didn't really need them to learn math, and that NO ONE could criticize my correct math work, no matter HOW much they wanted to hurt me.

    Whether in school or on a job, mostly I learned math — I was very eager to learn it — on my own just from good texts, some of the best. So, right, I learned from texts by Halmos, Kelley, Rudin, Simmons, Fleming, Coddington, von Neumann, more of Rudin, Zangwill, Nemhauser, Steenrod, Tukey, Royden, Neveu, Chung, Breiman, Cinlar, Karatzas, etc.

    Then I found doing publishable math research easy and fun.

    But my interests were not for an academic career but still in physics and doing well on the challenges and risks of the real world and, in particular, making money.

  • I'm a 75 yo female, B. A. in Accounting and Education, who's always loved math and found it very easy. Unlike many things in our world, like U. S. politics, it is logical.

  • I love math. My mother would gives us chores for different amounts. We would have to remember these and add them together to get he total on our own. She would tell us if we shorted ourselves so that we would know if we would cheat ourselves out of cash. Then at the store if we wanted to buy something she would buy it herself if we would figure out the total tax. She made it fun. She taught us to look for coupons in the papers to get chips and cookies and taught us the value of the dollar. Science was a disappointment. The students were not motivated cause the teacher was not motivated. I like reading different stuff in books and now on the internet but for my own entertainment. Desire to want to know why stuff happens is a must for children to learn and that desire must come from the teacher no matter how many times they teach it. Science rules and math is cool. "Read it,understand it, and use it!" My philosophy for success.

  • My secondary school education was in the old style British grammar school where math, chemistry, physics and biology were all taught by teachers with at least a bachelors degree in their subjects. No education degrees there.
    We were pressed hard with homework almost every night.
    The teachers liked their subjects and were very competent in them.
    I have taught university level biological science for many, many years here in the US.
    The sad situation here is that, very often, a kid who was not surviving in the sciences would transfer into the education department and so could end up teaching biology with no degree in the subject and possibly, little interest in it either.
    People with degrees in the sciences really do not need much in the way of education course work.
    University instructors rarely have any.
    I you are interested in your subject and well trained in it, sharing your knowledge will come naturally and easily.

  • My love of math began with a love of chemistry in 5th grade in Ms. Stelzer's class. That was 60 years ago. I discovered a book entitled All About Chemistry, and discovered soon, that Chemistry is impossible without mathematics. In junior high school, geometry and algebra introduced symbolic representations as a component of mathematics, and the concept of proof. Finally in university that ephemeral question of what is algebra (and by extension, calculus) good for got answered when I was an undergraduate assistant for a chemical physicist studying molecular collision cross sections. For me mathematics is a very pragmatic tool in science that forces one into a pragmatic numeracy in dealing with reality. After a PhD in physics, I can only say… thank you Ms. Stelzer.

  • I love math since i discovered connections between lines and angles in Geometry. Since then i do math everyday.

  • I like QuantaMagazine because i often find complex scientic issues explained in a way, which gives a glimpse of the idea even behind remotest abstract topics. This is rare. What is not at all rare in scientific blogs especially in the U.S. is the discussion of scientific education.Maybe this is a big problem, but surely not because this is a neglected issue in the web. What about concentrating on the things where you show real excellence?

  • I don't see the blue math "Submit Data" button, or any kind of "Submit Data" button for that matter. How do I participate in this survey? I'm sitting at a 27" iMac desktop computer so mobile is not an issue.

  • @Ron: The "Submit Data" button should be at the top right, below "Science Data." It should work in the latest versions of Chrome, Safari and Firefox.

  • I am a physicist working at a research university. I enjoy math, and perhaps have a natural aptitude which allows me to understand mathematical concepts quickly. In school, I was bored in my math classes, but managed to teach myself tensor calculus and then general relativity while still in high-school. I grew up in India where getting hold of good books was hard, and made do with whatever materials were available in the local (severely under-stocked) libraries.

    I use math daily in my work life, and in fact, often find it hard to express physical ideas otherwise. For many physicists math is a language, and just like one can't communicate without words, its hard to communicate certain ideas without writing down the equations. I still enjoy learning alternate mathematical approaches to various physical theories.

    One thing perhaps not addressed in the series of articles here on education, is the question: does every student really need to understand math and science? In fact, its obvious that only a small fraction of people ever use anything beyond ordinary arithmetic in their lives, and hence, it seems to me, the drilling of advanced algebra, trigonometry and calculus seems a big waste. For some reason, educators seem to think that a good understanding of math is required by every student in school. There is no clear and fundamental reason to think that this should be so. Most reasons that are given seem to to be vague and feel-good. In fact, from the responses presented in the chart, it seems that even teachers are unable to explain why this stuff is useful or important to learn!

    Now, obviously, math and science are tremendously important concepts and underpin almost all technical advances in the modern world. However, the question for educators should be that is it important for *every* student to learn it, even if they have no interest or aptitude for it?

    It may be better to stop math education after learning arithmetic and some basic algebra, leaving anything beyond that to a student's (and parent's) personal interest and aptitude. It is clear that with increasing automation and out-sourcing of jobs, the need for advanced technical knowledge will be needed by only a small fraction of people.

    This may seem like a contrary-to-mainstream view, but all data indicates that advanced math concepts, say advanced algebra and calculus is really used only by a tiny percentage of people. As such, the effort expended on these topics in school seems wasted. When even educators are unable to make a clear case, beyond some vague abstract feelings of "goodness", perhaps we need to rethink our approach to math and science education.

    A better approach would be to switch to introductory computer programming after one does arithmetic and basic algebra. We are surrounded by gadgets controlled by computer programs and its likely that many of these will have open APIs which can be used by end-users to customize. Computer programming education is pretty awful in most schools, perhaps even worse than math and science. One reason, of course, is that all the good programmers are making huge salaries in companies, leaving only the saintly types who don't care about money (or have really no aptitude or knowledge) to teach programming in school.

    In short, even though math and science education should and can be improved, one needs to think about its suitability for everyone, and realize that a lot of student grief and stress can be avoided if we do not make so much of it compulsory. Even teachers will enjoy their job more, focusing on those who have a genuine interest and aptitude for the subject.

  • Physics is like an inseparable part of my life. I have loved atomic physics since the time I learnt about Dalton's atomic theory in 6th grade.So I am pursuing undergraduate degree in physics. I don't think there could be many people who would love physics and hate mathematics for mathematics is language of physics

  • What code number? Asked to save? What?
    Anyway fill it in yourself if you cannot make sense. I started to like math in highschool one day when called up to the blackboard to make a calculation. Our vere coleric mathteacher shoutet at me that I did it wrong and could not calculate also calling me foureye. Well, I shoutet back to him that it was him that could not calculate and that I was right. He realized I was right and thereafter he loved and helped me, he had never had such an experience before. From liking I went to that it today is the love of my life.

  • I wanted to do the survey but the options provided for the very important (for me) question “When did you form this opinion?” just did not fit the answer I wanted to give – and it’s important – so I’ll “do” the survey here, in the comments. Before I get into that however, I’d like to question the assumption implicit in the drop-down menu choices for the question of when the opinion on math and/or science was formed. Why restrict the answer to the school environment? It’s a big weakness in the survey design in my opinion.

    I hated math all during my years in the K-12 school system in Ontario, Canada. Actually it was K-13 when I was attending high school (1968-1975). There’s no error in those dates by the way. Now I like math and admire what has been built/discovered in that field. I could even be persuaded to say I love it. However this change in opinion was not formed at any stage in the school system (at least in a school system where you had to attend traditional, lecture-style classes) or in relation to any teacher I’ve had.

    My problems started in grade 3 when I failed and had to repeat the year because I couldn’t learn my times table. I somehow got through grades 4 to 6 without an officially recorded “problem” but in grade 7 when I got into the credit system I promptly failed math and grammar. In those days however you were passed to the next year if you failed no more than two subjects so I found myself in grade 8. Here I also failed math and grammar but it was only two failed subjects so I made it into grade 9 and high school. Here they taught “English”, not grammar, so I had no problem with that subject (I loved reading). Math was a different story however. I can still remember Mr. Knox giving a pep talk the first day saying that everyone was going to pass. Listening to him I KNEW that I would fail. Teachers should live in the real world or just pack it in because talk is just so incredibly cheap. Of course I failed, and in the second year of high school I took grade 9 math again, and of course failed again. Then I dropped math for a few years but I didn’t forget about it. I tried my hand again at grade 9 math when I was in my first year of grade 12 and failed it again. I remember one teacher asking the class if we saw the answer. The only thing I “saw” when I looked at a math textbook was black ink on white paper. Only that and nothing more. I gave up after that third attempt at grade 9 math. Fast forward about 8 years and I was laid off from my bulldozing job, killing time in skid row, Edmonton Alberta. I decided to try again, at the age of 27. This time however I knew that I absolutely had to stay out of the classroom and start at the beginning if I was to succeed, so I signed up for a correspondence course, starting at the grade 1 level. Cute pictures of animals and “This is the ones column” and “This is the tens column….” told me that I was where I needed to be if I was to succeed. Over those winter months I made my way from grade 1 to grade 9 math, and then it was back to work. About a year later I decided to get a science degree at university but of course I had some preparation to do. I took a placement test at a community college in my hometown that had a ‘learn-at-your-own-pace’ system where you work on modules by yourself, only consulting a teacher (who sat in the corner) if you got stuck. You consulted the teacher entirely at your own discretion. This system worked well for me. The program was designed for high school dropouts and other adults wishing to complete high school requirements in core subjects (math, science & English) to obtain a high school equivalency diploma. My English was fine so I only had to take the math and science. I came in at a grade 3 level on the math placement test which, while showing some 🙂 regression over the previous year grade 9 high water mark, was still better than grade 1. In a year and a half I had completed my requirements for grade 12. Then I entered the University of Guelph and did a one year probationary year where I took a pre-calculus course (got a 75% on it). Four years after that I graduated with a B.Sc. in agriculture, having taken only one other math course (Calculus). I remember studying really hard for the final on that one. I passed but only got 59%. The grad student in the math help room wondered why I was spending all my time studying for the Calculus exam: “Why aren’t you studying for your other subjects?”

    Some people are naturally good at math and some are naturally not. I’m not good at it, naturally or in practice – but I admire it, like it, maybe even love it, and I read about it quite a bit. So when did I change from hating to loving? I’d have to say it was when I was in Edmonton, learning on my own, starting at the beginning, going at my own pace, staying away from classrooms, thus eliminating the frustration, and finally proving to myself that I could do elementary school and junior high school level math.

  • I've loved math ever since I discovered it. I had the intuition I would like it in middle school and high school, but when I discovered its true nature, in college, I was hooked. Why do we have to waste a decade in K-12 telling a horribly boring and false story about what math really is? How many people never get to know what math really is? We have too many untalented, uninspiring teachers. And many of them don't have the knowledge, let alone the ability to infect their students with an enthusiasm they really don't have.

  • I love puzzles and I Love math. As any kid, I was in wonder looking up in night sky, years ago, when and where you could still see the milky way rising. and thought it would be awesome to study the sky, and soon realized I had to become a scientist to do that. childish reasoning of how things worked, changed to reasoning how and why things worked with math because it provides solid thinking tools, to answer a lot of questions that defies common sense of a school kid. It was never a need to make it useful, it has and always been to understand why and how things work as they do.

  • @Lin I don't remember my number. I think I did not pay close attention to memorize it and now I am lost. Any help will be wonderful.

  • I was not really interested in math back in my teenager years but I was interested in learning computer programming. Soon afterwards I started searching thru my math and physics textbooks to find formulas, equations that could be useful to write interesting computer programs. And that lead me to lifetime of interest in science especially physics.

  • I first started loving math when I took algebra from Mr. Rosner in 9th grade. Then I had Miss Banta in 10th and 12th grade. They were both very inspiring teachers. I went on to get a Bachelors degree in electrical engineering from NJIT. Then I got a Masters in mathematics.

    Chance has a lot to do with what you end up doing for a career. My guidance counselor in High School suggested electrical engineering because I liked math. My neighbor was and electrical engineer (I did not talk to him very much, but my parents looked up to him). My father only had a ninth grade education and figured that electrical engineering would pay well. I considered going into computer science for my master's degree. One of my computer science professors suggested that I apply to the math department at the University of Michigan in addition to computer science at University of Colorado and the University of Maryland. Then I took two computer science classes that I did not like. One was for JCL (Job Control Language for an IBM mainframe). The second was assemble language programming (all that work when FORTRAN was easier). Therefore I took the math degree. I was also in Air Force ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) because of the Vietnam War. The Air Force had me work on operational test and evaluation of the SRAM missile. I learned about inertial navigation during the Air Force assignment. When I fulfilled my Air Force commitment I got a job as a rocket scientist. I am at the still at the same company (41 years). The engineers at the company consider me a mad mathematician, and the mathematicians consider me an engineer who can speak their language.

  • We need GOOD MOTIVATED math teachers that are also CREATIVE, especially in the US. There should be a separate exam both substantive and psychological (aptitude to actually be able to communicate) for math teachers before they are allowed to teach such a criticially important (and sometimes difficult) subject. ex. Take a fairly complex subject and reduce it to it's essence in 3-5 sentences.

  • Science; love it. Math; have always found it very hard. It frustrates me that math limits my understanding of science.

  • I teach at a community college in NYS. Five years ago, I read an article by Charles F. Marion in a journal of the Association of Math Teachers of New York State (AMTNYS).
    I believe the title of the article was "What Comes After 1 + 2 = 3?" In any event, here's what struck me. (And it helps if you re-write this so that the various equal signs line up. I'll try to do that here, but I don't know how the formatting will turn out.)

    1 + 2 = 3
    4 + 5 + 6 = 7 + 8
    9 + 10 + 11 + 12 = 13 + 14 + 15
    16 + 17 + 18 + 19 + 20 = 21 + 22 + 23 + 24

    There was certainly much more (much, much more) to this article (and in fact Mr. Marion has written several other articles that I know of, and they are all rich in mathematical investigation.)

    Ever since I came across that, I have been showing this to my (community college) students (and anyone else I can get to sit still for it, from eight year-olds to 80 year-olds). Not ONE of my students has seen this previously (unless s/he has taken another class from me). And that, to me, is an indication of one of the problems with mathematics education (at least in the USA).

    Of course, in this forum, I'm preaching to the choir (or at least some of it). What patterns do you observe? If there was a next line, what would it be? Is it true? What about the line after that? Or the one after that? Does it go on "like this" forever? How would you know? Of course, not all of these questions are suitable for all ages.

    But the simplicity, elegance, and beauty inherent in this are obvious—-and yet we, math educators—-have kept this carefully hidden from our students. (Mostly because almost none of us have SEEN this ourselves. I certainly hadn't, and I had taught for over ten years in grades 7 through community college when I encountered this article.)

    Invariably, the reaction to seeing this is surprise, delight, and "oh, my gosh!!" Don't we need more of that (at every age) in mathematics education?

    (And, BTW, did you notice that every line begins with a perfect square, in order?)

  • I too did not see any hexagons. Unless the hexagons were metaphorical, I don't think they're showing up in my browser. I found it curious that the list of countries was mostly but not entirely in traditional alphabetic order; I thought this might be a trick or puzzle, but if so I couldn't figure it out. My experiences with mathematics and science were quite different. As a small child someone told me the sun was a hot ball of burning gas very, very far away, and my view of the universe exploded. Not much later, I got a book about astronomy (in those days, mostly chaste white objects on an inky background) and I was hooked, at least as a fan. Mathematics, on the other hand, consisted entirely of trudging through the dreadful deserts of arithmetic, at which I was not very good and therefore punished with even more trudging. It was not until I was in my last year of high school that I encountered the elegance, beauty and power of plane geometry. By then it was too late to make a mathematician out of me; I was firmly tracked into the literature side of things. However, I did become a successful computer programmer, because with computers all you have to do is set up the logic and the machine does the trudging for you. And I've become a sort of math fan for the weirder stuff, like transfinite numbers. Maybe it was all for the best, although I don't think grade school needed to be quite so miserable.

  • I love science
    hate math
    (always did bad at math),
    good on concepts but horrible on math.
    Was advised to NOT take physics and chemistry in HS because of my poor math grades.
    lol and behold when I got to college physics, organic chemistry and inorganic chemistry were freshman requirements.
    I got C's. (A's on comprehension, F's on math)
    😬

  • For the last 3 years, I have been teaching myself maths through a variety of online sources. I began barely able to do Year 8 and am now about two thirds the way through the the AP Calculus Course. As a teacher (English and German), it is enlightening to see what it feels like to really be a student again outside one's comfort zone. It has prompted me to ask the question: why am I now fascinated by a subject that never really grabbed me at school? The answer lies partly in the fact that calculators have made the tedious grunt work of long division and such, redundant and mercifully, no more books of logarithmic tables that made you cross-eyed. But it is more than that. I find whenever I am tempted to revert to the petulant Year Nine student I once was, scowling about how hard and boring and stupid maths is, I watch a Numberphile video or listen to any one of the current ambassadors for the popular understanding of maths, notably Marcus du Sautoy, Edward Frenkel and Ian Stewart, and am reminded of the bigger picture – maths as the poetry of logic, if you will. Another great incentive to keep going was doing an online maths based course in Special Relativity run by Brian Greene at WSU. Not discounting the role that maturity plays, nevertheless I cannot help but wonder if perhaps what really made between the difference between my attitude to maths then and now is that at school, we never really saw the big picture. Would it have made a difference if I had been exposed, at least, to the ideas in Abbott's "Flatland", been told that nature's deepest secrets could be revealed through the aesthetics of maths, if we had a joint art and maths class exploring Escher, looked at Borges' stories with both our English and Maths teachers? This kind of thing will never the replace plain hard work necessary to gain important skills but it may be the carrot that certain students need to keep motivated. I wonder if the aesthetic aspect of maths including how it can inspire the arts could be just what is needed to net those students most likely to be steered in the direction of the arts and languages. Though we may never be scientists, engineers and mathematicians but as least we will develop an appreciation for the subject as an integral part of our culture.

  • I'm a retired — 78 — aerospace engineer. I majored in science because of my mother asked me what my college major was going to be. I responded that I thought that I would major in English or American Lit — to which she said that since I was Chinese, that it would be far easier for me to find gainful employment if I majored in a science.

    Being Chinese-American but dutiful, I did, though I hated it.

    I noticed that the Chinese students coming off the plane — who could hardly speak a word of English — could ace thermodynamics and kinetics while I was struggling to maintain a B average.

    Why was that? I mean, an examination of my Chinese family roots revealed that they were all scholars, scientists, professors, etc. — folks of high accomplishment. So I had the right genes.

    Then it hit me. If I write one plus two equals three, only those folks who can read English can make sense of what I wrote.

    On the other hand, if instead I wrote 1+2 = 3, almost everybody could read that — albeit in their native tongue — because it's written in symbolic language.

    Well, Chinese is written in symbolic language. So all literate Chinese cut their teeth in understanding symbolic language — which is also the language of math and science and engineering.

    The other benefit of having symbolic language is that it informs your thinking. Chinese symbols are not without their rules which include, by way of example, that all characters for, say, different furniture items, include the Chinese character for wood.

    In other words, there is a symbolic logic to Chinese. There is also a certain elegance to how they are structured. Thus it's no surprise that the Chinese government senior leadership is filled by folks who all graduated from engineering and science colleges and universities.

    Thus these disciplines are second nature to them. Thus they can get off the plane and ace thermodynamics and kinetics and all of the math, science and engineering concepts.

    I must confess that this may just be a rationalization on my part to excuse my having been a mediocre Chinese-American student who was illiterate in Chinese. On the other hand, I was kicked upstairs into management because the powers-that-be must have thought that my talents lay somewhere other than in the lab.

    FWIW, I excelled at program management including — back in1992 — responsibility for a major 188 million dollar project which almost got me fired because I did a risk analysis and determined that we were betting the farm on this and my analysis concluded that we would fail.

    But that's another story for another time.

  • High Level math confounds me. I wish I could understand it the same way I do other subjects. I know it is key to understanding concepts of our reality. I was punished and humiliated in elementary school because I could read fast or questioned math lessons I knew were wrong. Reading I kept. The math fell to the side.

Comments are closed.