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I am trying to study, and I keep finding that math is hard (any kind), and it doesn't get easier(only harder). I am trying to learn these things all in progression (asynchronously):

1.Math for all forms of 3-D implementation (featuring 3-D computer programming in all areas).

2.Vector Calculus and all other forms of Calculus (for radio waves and electric circuits).

I am trying to self-teach myself 3-D programming, and electrical engineering.

The problem is that I get overwhelmed on trying to solve the next steps I don't understand, and I use excess brain energy thinking and failing to understand(much like with other subjects).

The problem is that it just doesn't come easy to me. Not at all

I would like to explore in what other systems are available besides math to succeed in my life (not a career, not a job, but my passion; my drive to do what I am called to do).

I have gained a near concussion from banging my head against the wall trying to work with Linear Algebra entirely from the beginning to the end(by page 8 I was contemplating suicide).

Sorry for such strong messages here, but I just want to know what's wrong with me ... am I just unable to learn math? Why is it such difficulty to simply advance linearly? I always reach points of confusion, try again and again to get past them, and by the time I understand it I'm tired and have lost all dedication, desire, and drive. It's like I am jumping through hoops just to move forward.

I just want to succeed, I try hard, but all forms of math at a certain level astound me with confusion. I feel like I've moved a mountain just to understand some formulae, problems, etc.

Some notes:

1.I am self-teaching, and can't do it any other way, and nobody teaches me but myself.

2.I have a strong desire to learn, but fail inevitably at grasping concepts and succeeding, taking me much longer to get anywhere, much more strain, pain, distress and energy than many others.

What do I do? I leave it all up to you ... how can I get through this?

Specifically, how can I make learning math easier, more successful, and get past difficult obstacles?

  • Not a student of life, but a part of life.
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closed as too broad by Najib Idrissi, pizza, Mark Fantini, අරුණ, John Apr 5 at 4:43

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Focus on one subject at a time. If you're having trouble studying independently, sign up for classes at your local community college. –  Potato Jan 7 '14 at 22:20
I can't afford (and don't really believe it makes a difference in whether or not I'd learn, and don't even really want to) get involved in something like that. It's debt I can't live with, and it's more of a loss than a gain. I try to focus on one subject at a time, but I want to learn everything all at once because I feel too far behind. –  user119705 Jan 7 '14 at 22:21
Learning independently is hard. It's a skill that needs to be developed. If you don't have this skill, the only way you're going to succeed is by having experts teach you and provide you with a structured learning environment. One class at my local community college costs less than $300, according to their website, which is extremely reasonable. I urge you to consider such opportunities. –  Potato Jan 7 '14 at 22:27
Also, I can't tell if you're serious or not, but don't actually bang your head against wall. You need that sucker to learn, and concussions aren't going to help. And if you really have suicidal thoughts after struggling with math, you need to contact a healthcare professional immediately. –  Potato Jan 7 '14 at 22:28
Also, maybe free MOOCs would help here? –  Potato Jan 7 '14 at 22:33

6 Answers 6

Suppose that you were a teacher with a student talking in this way. How would you react? What would you tell them?

The trouble with being self-taught is that you have to be a good student and a good teacher. This is possible, but not if the student has to put in all the work. Your teacher side sounds just a bit too harsh and stubborn, and should listen more to the student.

In short, take it easy on yourself. If you are ready to shuffle off the mortal coil at page 8, then stay on page 4 until it's comfortable. Time spent on the basics is never wasted; on the contrary, those of us who were willing to spend weeks on one page made up all that time and more as we got to the advanced material.

None of it will or should come easy, but rather than beating yourself up about it, go and do some more mathematics. Or, if you are truly burned out, then go do anything else until you're ready to come back. Nobody can maintain an intense pace forever, but over time, you'll find a natural pace that's right for you—as long as you don't exhaust yourself and give up.

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Just a few thoughts by a not-that-experienced math student:

Math is the example for Leraning by Doing

Keep trying to do exercises. Ask for help if you get stuck. Get easier tasks. Do similar exercises. Fokus on one topic. If you need to, throw your head against your desk and start over again.

Math books are not easy to read

A math book (or generally any proof) is not designed to be read as fast as a novel. Yes, many parts have to be read more than once. That is very common. So: Reading and understanding proofs as well as ideas takes time. Furthermore there are good books and less good books (where “good” may be very subjective!), for topics like linear algebra there should be tons of material.

Your job is not an easy one

You try to self-teach yourself electrical engineering. That‘s fine, but you should know that many students suffer to study electrical engineering at an university although they get much more support than you get. It‘s totally fine to set high goals, but one has to be aware of the difficulty. (This point may not really help you, but it is designed to work against any “Everyone is so smart, but I am dumb” thoughts.)

Keep your motivation!

Keep motivated. Try to make learning math something you like to do. For example, finally solving a hard problem (“hard” is subjective! If the author of your math book gives you a in his opinion easy problem, it may still qualify as a hard one for the more unexperienced student!) can be very satisfying.

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If you are learning math for use in computer science, it may be useful to take a more project oriented approach to learning math. Rather than generally learning math so you can later do arbitrary stuff, try to find a project to do and learn what you need in order to do it. Maybe try to come up with solutions yourself for aspects of the project and later ask online if there is a formal mathematical method for solving the sub-problem. This will focus what you are learning, break it into manageable pieces, and hopefully give you a better intuition/understanding of what you are learning.

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I'm in a same situation as you, in the sense that I'm teaching myself math. When I was in school I never paid much attention to math and I simply lost track, didn't build my foundation that subsequent math study depended on and hence really struggled. I made it through but just barely. Stuff such as calculus, integral and differential equations didn't mean anything to me. It wasn't until reaching my adulthood and always having that nagging feeling of having missed something that I decided to fix this thing.

Studying was slow in the start and it still is. Math isn't easy. It's fricken hard. But take solace in the fact that it's hard for most people. The lucky few who have intuition and talent and can even progress into making research in maths are (in my opinion) really extra ordinary. We all have our own skills, but theres no point to feel bad about having hard time in math. We all do.

You have to realize that part of your problem is recursive. First you have to teach yourself how to teach yourself. For me this for example means that I have to write a lot. Just write everything down and all the time. I need to refresh things in memory and then write them down. Things like formulae, identities, rules for differentation, equations etc. Whenever I feel like something is slipping out of my mind I will write it down again. If it already is gone I will restudy it quickly and bring it back.

So that being siad, your primary concern should be discovering your own methods of learning. Find what works for you. Then you just need to keep applying this untill you can make sure that you've understood the material. And remember the sum of all those little dx's equal the whole thing, as long as you keep summing them and don't give up.

Another thing is that math has a depedency graph. If you're trying to solve problems that depend on something which you don't fully understand you'll have hard time. For example if you can't work with simple polynomial algebra you will fail calculus. Likewise if you don't fully understand calculus you will fail vector calculus. If you don't undertand geometry, trigonometry or algebra you will struggle with linear algebra much more than you should.

Another thing is, some books are simply bad. If you feel that you know the prior material but the book still doesn't make any sense its possible that the it's just badly written. My advice is to get multiple books on any particular math topic. Study them and build a cross reference in the books. Use the material in one book to augment the material in the other books and vice versa.

And then I guess the most important point is practice. You need to solve a lot of problems. Whenever you're studying new material it is helpful to be able to fluently solve sub-problems using techniques learned previously without having to use enormous amounts of brain power on them. So get yourself a book such as 3000 solved problems in xyz and work those. And then forget them and then rework them again. Untill you have a solid understanding of what you're really doing.

Good luck.

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If you are having difficulty with some problem work backwards until you understand things. For example if the problem seems to require some formula you don't understand then find a place that discusses such formulas. If the problem is in a textbook perhaps there is a discussion at an earlier point in the textbook. If not find another book or website that discusses that point. Repeat until you understand the material. Then work forward. This will take time. Also ask particular questions either here or other places. Post a question like: Here is a problem. I understand this about the problem, I do not understand such and such about the problem. People can best help you if they understand what you do and do not know.

Also it might be that the texts that you are currently reading are, at this time, too hard for you. Perhaps you can find texts that address the topics you are interested in at easier level or a slower pace.

Good luck!

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Your kinda jumping in the deep end trying to teach yourself them topics, unless you have prior mathematical background. The reason your probably not getting the concepts is that maths is a novel. The concepts were thought up by mathematicians for a reason and if you understand them reasons then you can normally think the maths up without a textbook, hence do maths on your own, but if you only ever learn techniques with out the bigger picture then maths is hard. You can't learn the bigger picture from a text book, you can only see it if your truly a mathematician and they are born not taught. So I'm sorry to say if you can't see it your probably never will, well not in the subjects your trying to do, probably best if you stick to your times tables :-p

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