In a recent discussion with a group of graduate and undergraduate students in mathematics, we came to the following conclusions about how to respond to those who tell you “I hate math”, which can seem like a real conversation-stopper if you do math all day 😉

1) Keep in mind that people probably don’t hate math– They hate the tests they did poorly on and the algebra homework they had to do in high school. So you might – gasp! – agree with them that you weren’t that keen on high school math either but that there is more than that. Then you can elaborate.

2) Try to tell them about some cool math without using words like “theorem”, “algorithm”, “differential equation”, etc…. Make a Mobius Strip and cut it in half! Or ask them to “appreciate” math for what is does even if they don’t like doing it—point out the role of mathematics in something like the movie industry (avoid talking about finance).

3) Ask them to think about the strength of the word they are using, and whether they really do actually “hate” math? Did they have a bad experience in a math class? Do they have any idea what mathematicians DO?

4) Ask them what they do all day, and then quickly say “Oh I HATE that!” Ok, just kidding!

5) Make an analogy: Tell them that the math they learned in school is related to higher mathematics in the same way that grammar is related to great literature.

6) Speak about your love of mathematics and how it relates PHILOSOPHICALLY to other aspects of your life.

7) Say “Don’t be a hater!” Then have a laugh and change the subject or see #4.

Please add more ideas! And if you were at our discussion, and I left out something we said, please add it back in!

My favorite question is, “Do you wish you liked math?” I think that’s where you have to start.

If I’m feeling snarky, I’ll respond, “Somebody has to do it! Aren’t you glad it isn’t you?” Seriously though, I like to ask, “When was the first time you can remember hating math?”

I usually scream “well, I hate YOU!” and then run to my room and listen to Bauhaus super loud.

More seriously, I agree with the ideas that lean toward showing someone a pretty picture or something cool you can do with math. There are a lot of people who “just don’t get” math and physics, and this is why they say hate it (the comment about what they really hate being algebra homework is dead on). Being someone who has always had some sort of intuition with math and physics, it’s sometimes hard to put myself in their shoes. I think instilling the same kind of fascination and joy of discovery that mathematicians feel is nigh impossible, but you can at least convince them that what math does is cool, even if they don’t think math itself is.

I would say, ¨Fine, it is not a big deal! But if you want to change the situation, I can help you to do that.¨

Maybe asking “Do you know Google?” and then making the point of all the math behind their moves (pagerank, adwords logic, etc) should strike them…

First, trust. The people who are telling they hate math mean it, it is difficult to them and there won’t be any help for that. If you realized that math is difficult to you, it won’t be any better later.

I have found that the only plan to deal with this attitude in a lasting way involves setting the student up to succeed an a substantive way. You need to find a question that is simultaneously inherently interesting to the student at that time (whether for grade reasons, as an application, or for its aesthetics), at a level so that the student is likely to succeed, and is hard enough for the student to be proud of themselves for succeeding. Fortunately, in the classroom, you have this power.

i hate math very much coz of the multiplication table

I feel no-one is here for the emo, sometimes. ,