Few people look back at school and list Maths lessons as a highpoint. There is also a fairly automatic response to classify ourselves as either good or bad at maths, with the majority of people assigning themselves to the second category.

Part of the problem is that we associate Maths with being put on the spot. In school we had to recite times tables or answer quick fire mental arithmetic questions, with the pressure of then finding out whether we were right or wrong. In adult life, we have to navigate the complicated set of rates and fees during an interview with the bank or calculate the 10% tip while the waiter or waitress watches over.

What attracts a lot of people to Maths is there is always a right answer. But this can be a double-edged sword as there are plenty of wrong answers too. These days you often also get credit for showing how you get to the answer. Although you are still expected to provide this in the pressurized environment of exam conditions, within a time limit and with no help from anyone else, textbooks or notes.

In my mind being good at Maths is not the same as reciting Pi to 14 decimal places, or listing the first 20 square numbers. Maths, like all sciences, is about understanding concepts and applying routines. There is no rule that you must hold all this information in your head at one time.

As I admitted in my previous post, I use the Internet on pretty much a constant basis to support my work. Often, I like to check that the test I have in mind is appropriate and that I can remember how to do it correctly, or sometimes I want to try something new and I want a step by step break down of how to implement this. None of this takes away from my mathematical ability.

So if you don’t have the best memory or respond well to exam situations, don’t let this cloud your judgement. If you enjoy Maths but didn’t do so well in your exams, don’t write yourself off. Yes, it may take a bit of effort but there are plenty of great resources out there to help you. And, like with most things, if you repeat it a few times, sometimes it starts to stick.

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