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Introduction to Philosophical Inquiry, Uncategorized

Jennifer A: I Cry When I Do Math (and English, and Physics…)

I often cry when I do math. No, seriously. One second the problems seem straightforward and clear and I know exactly which formulas to use. The next, I’m faced with a jumble of numbers which present to me no way out of their trap. I feel inadequate. Slow. Dumb. And I can’t control my tears.

I found a boy just like me (minus the waterworks and a little more 2D) in a YouTube video showing Tim Wilson’s analysis of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.” He had fallen apart when he could not find the answer, but then he got back up again. He listened, he learned, and he succeeded.

When we encounter subjects that we feel we should already understand or be able to grasp faster, it is frustrating and disheartening, some may even say painful, to go on the long trek towards understanding that begins with the embarrassing acknowledgement that we have failed in our initial attempt. Still, we set off on the journey, because we are aware of the payoff. The harder something is to learn, the more satisfied and accomplished we feel when we have “mastered” it. Now, the next time we’re faced with the same sort of problem, we will have the ability to solve it and therefore increase our overall confidence.

It’s give and take. We must endure the frustration and unsatisfactory feeling that comes from entering a new realm of study in return for the happiness and pride that couples success. A perfect example of this?

I conquered my math provincial.



5 thoughts on “Jennifer A: I Cry When I Do Math (and English, and Physics…)

  1. I am happy to see this post here among a few others that seem to make arguments against the discomfort that accompanies the path of learning. Where do you think this notion of satisfaction and accomplishment comes from? Are we ‘hard-wired’ to continuously seek out these opportunities, or do some of us seek out more of them than others? Why do some people possess a greater ability to delay these gratifications (and thus work toward more arduous goals/accomplishments)?

    Posted by Bryan | September 24, 2012, 3:58 am
  2. Is it purely pride that drives us towards knowledge? That causes us to drag ourselves through the mud, in order to achieve understanding?

    I believe, in mainly the case of school, that it might be something greater. There is a tri-partite theory, that says that we do things for three causes: reason, spirit and appetite.

    Could it be reason, and not spirit (pride) that instills the need to understand math? You certainly do feel a sense of pride as a result of accomplishment, but I would argue that the reason you pursue math with such vigor is reason. You realize that in order to pass high school, in order to accomplish your goals, in order to attain a culturally created image of success.

    Jonathan Toews (in the eyes of Plato)

    Posted by JonathanToews | September 25, 2012, 4:49 am
    • Thank you for your comment Plato. I am aware of your tri-partite theory, and I do believe it can lend insight into this situation. I study math because I realize that it will play a role in my future career, but I wouldn’t keep driving toward the understanding of the subject if I did not periodically feel pride or happiness. In that case, reason would quickly be pulled down by a dwindling spirit.

      Posted by msbethechange | September 26, 2012, 1:06 am
  3. Why did no one tell me I forgot to remove the word “got” from my last line? It really ruined the impact :p

    Posted by msbethechange | September 26, 2012, 5:52 am

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