Is mathematical ability born or nurtured?

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Comm Tiger
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I think most people have it in them to be decent at maths, I think perhaps a lot of kids develop a kind of fear of maths when we are young perhaps due to some kind of social stigma, for example I used to struggle with it, if I saw anything resembling algebra would brain would turn into fudge :P but now I've begun seeing the world though a logical and mathematical perception, and I find it a lot easier to "get" maths if you like, it actually makes sense.

So what do you think, an ability that everyone can develop if they learn how to perceive it or an ability only a part of the population can develop to more than a basic level?
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Abed1993
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nurtured.

Absolutely.
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faber niger
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I agree, mainly nurtured. I've not studied maths for years, but I don't think that it would have been impossible for me to have done so.
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limetang
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Both (obviously), but I'd say mostly nurtured. I mean at GCSE I was in a maths class full of people who did not want to learn, and it made it impossible to actually learn anything. The result was me getting a B for GCSE. I changed schools for a levels, and because of my B at GCSE I was put in the bottom group for maths, and at this school we actually had classes of people who wanted to learn, and so by the end of a level without much effort I was getting A's (and did overall). And have continued to improve at university.

So basically I had the ability to do maths it's just I wasn't in an environment where I could learn it well. So in many ways it was nurtured. It didn't matter what my natural aptitude was. I wasn't in the right environment to learn it so just couldn't.
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Comm Tiger
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I guess I'm the same and I think after I'd studied chemistry for a while my mind got over it's preconception of maths being only in the hands of a select few when anyone could do it. Tbh I wish I'd taken AS Maths now but oh well I can still study it!
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Dog4444
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(Original post by Comm Tiger)
I think most people have it in them to be decent at maths.
Can you define "decent at maths"?
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j0nnn
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both. some may not learn mathematics to the same extent as another student, even when subjected to the same environment and it being nurtured in a 'similar' way.

for the most part,though, i think having an apitude for something is mainly down to interest, patience and having a bit of a persistent/stubborn nature.
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-kit-kat-
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Both. my brother is very dyslexic and really struggles with maths. He was tutored intensely before his GCSE and ended up with an A. Whether that was due to his mathmatical ability or the fact that he memorised the standard techniques for different types of questions and plugged numbers in is questionable though. The minute he is given a maths question in a different format to what he is used to (not necessarily with different/difficult content) he can't do it.

My point is that not everyone has a natural aptitude for maths by any means
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Comm Tiger
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(Original post by Dog4444)
Can you define "decent at maths"?
Being able to apply it to everyday life without struggling excessively, it's a loose definition of course and I don't mean it as in being a "mathsy" person as such just being able to use maths to their advantage rather than it make them want to bang their head against a wall.
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Viet
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Depends on what ability you meant? to understand, use or develop maths? 'Cause in my case, obviously I was nurtured to understand, but has the ability to use what I learn to progress further, which I think is a common case with most mathematicians.
The thing you mention about kids are scared of maths is just a social stigma like you say. If you think about it, kids who aren't scared of Maths would be easier to nurture, because they have the right attitude. It's far more difficult to teach some anti-Maths people. What I mean is, you can be nurtured into doing something well but you have to have the 'it' factor (i.e. some sort of born ability). I say that because I've been trying to teach some "friends" to do maths, and yeah...So, nurtured born ability, if you know what I mean.
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Notethis
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More innate I'd say
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Comm Tiger
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Understanding and especially being able to use maths is vital to many different professions, chemists, pharmacists, engineers and many other scientists and of course mathematicians and accountants and what not. I think I would agree with you on that, myself I've always been a science person, well I have an interest in almost anything :P but it took some time for me to realise how vital maths is to the sciences as a way of expressing and predicting things, without a fairly deep knowledge of maths a chemist wouldn't be able to synthesise or predict new compounds for example.
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Dog4444
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(Original post by Comm Tiger)
Being able to apply it to everyday life without struggling excessively, it's a loose definition of course and I don't mean it as in being a "mathsy" person as such just being able to use maths to their advantage rather than it make them want to bang their head against a wall.
Well, most people can apply it to their lives (basically it's 2+2 kind of thing). I think it's mostly nurtured but limited by your nature.

(Original post by Comm Tiger)
without a fairly deep knowledge of maths a chemist wouldn't be able to synthesise or predict new compounds for example.
Can you show some examples? Just curious.
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Comm Tiger
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(Original post by Dog4444)
Well, most people can apply it to their lives (basically it's 2+2 kind of thing). I think it's mostly nurtured but limited by your nature.


Can you show some examples? Just curious.
You need to know the required proportions of the number of moles needed to make a given product for example and to know that you need the equations and the data extrapolated from spectroscopy and stuff like that, and in modern times most discovery of new compounds is mostly done with computer simulation which of course needs mathematical data to work, you need to work out things like the molar mass in pharmacology to know how the molecule will behave in the body, and then of course there is things like working out dosages and half lives in medicinal chemistry which granted isn't exactly advanced but it's very important.
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DYKWIA
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nurtured. You have to mold your brain into a mathematical way of thinking. Some people are born with a natural head start but I think it is easy to bridge that head start very quickly.
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luke
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I would say if you were introduced to basic numeracy at a young age (2-3 years old - basic counting and addition obviously) then you'll be better prepared throughout your childhood and excell amongst your other classmates during primary school leading on to being an overall better mathematician by the time you do your GCSEs and A-Levels.

I'd say it's the same as languages (native and foreign) really, those who are read to at a young age will be read at a higher standard than that of their age group, and how children often pick foreign languages up faster than their parents when their family moves abroad.

There have been a few cases too when feral children raised in the wild by dogs/wolves who could speak no human languages really struggle to learn one as they find it much harder than a baby to grasp the language.

I've waffled a bit but I don't really care
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Intriguing Alias
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(Original post by Comm Tiger)
You need to know the required proportions of the number of moles needed to make a given product for example and to know that you need the equations and the data extrapolated from spectroscopy and stuff like that, and in modern times most discovery of new compounds is mostly done with computer simulation which of course needs mathematical data to work, you need to work out things like the molar mass in pharmacology to know how the molecule will behave in the body, and then of course there is things like working out dosages and half lives in medicinal chemistry which granted isn't exactly advanced but it's very important.
That's hardly maths beyond GCSE/AS level though. It's like when a GP I know said 'doctors need to use maths all the time - making sure you do the right dosage with prescriptions and stuff' - hate when that's called 'maths'.

But anyway, I don't really know what I'd say to this. I don't anyone who's really good at maths who hasn't already been good at it since an early age, so that'd lead me to say nature. You can do very well at A-level maths without a high natural ability, though, I know someone who got near 100% in AS who isn't particularly great at maths - just worked like crazy. I think that's different than mathematical ability.


I think the problem with this question is what people define as mathematical ability. For me, to think someone is mathematically able they'd have to breeze pretty easily through A-level and be successful during undergraduate maths (and further study/research would show higher ability and work ethic) - while some people would say getting a B or A at A-level maths is being mathematically able.


This is not to say I think that those with ability will just be amazingly successful in maths - everyone needs to develop their skills and practice. I think it also depends on the person's attitude - I will not give up on doing a maths question; and am very passionate about trying everything I possibly can until I even consider giving up. I think that makes me strive to be a better mathematician; to work harder and to learn more.
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Intriguing Alias
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(Original post by luke)
There have been a few cases too when feral children raised in the wild by dogs/wolves who could speak no human languages really struggle to learn one as they find it much harder than a baby to grasp the language.
There are feral children!? WOW I've gotta start doing some googling!
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luke
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(Original post by hassi94)
There are feral children!? WOW I've gotta start doing some googling!
I know! I thought they were just urban legends until about two years ago.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feral_child
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Comm Tiger
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(Original post by hassi94)
There are feral children!? WOW I've gotta start doing some googling!
Yup, when people have locked their kids away for years and things like that, it's sad because they can never live a normal life or live independently. There has even been cases where they have been raised by wolves or dogs and they act like dogs, walking on all fours and barking.

But anyways that's off topic, I think like most things it's hard to define someone who is able, I mean how can you define someone who's good at say history? because it's all subjective it makes it very difficult and that's why I think that academic grades don't always show someone's true potential.
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