We all have a fixed ability in maths - discuss

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Sophhhowa
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#1
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#1
Basically the title. A professor at uni said to me that for every person there comes a point where no matter how hard they try the maths is just too hard for them and no amount of work, practise etc will ever help. For some people this happens at gcse and for others not until postgraduate maths. I’ve never thought this to be true but I thought I’d gather other people’s thoughts.
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Mehvij12345
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#2
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#2
I don't get what you mean by a fixed point?
Is it like a grade or how much you know and understand?
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becausethenight
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#3
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#3
I really doubt this - maybe a point where they aren't interested enough to want to go further, or the work is such that it's more than they really want to do?
I know maths has a reputation as a genius subject based on talent, but it seems like quite a sweeping generalisation, especially as so few people will even want a highly academic career doing abstract maths?
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Muttley79
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#4
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#4
(Original post by Sophhhowa)
Basically the title. A professor at uni said to me that for every person there comes a point where no matter how hard they try the maths is just too hard for them and no amount of work, practise etc will ever help. For some people this happens at gcse and for others not until postgraduate maths. I’ve never thought this to be true but I thought I’d gather other people’s thoughts.
Where is his/her research to bsck this up?
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Mehvij12345
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#5
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#5
Maths itself requires lots of motivation and plenty of interest within the subject to help encourage yourself to get better. So overall you are your own limit in way i guess...
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username3477548
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#6
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#6
(Original post by Muttley79)
Where is his/her research to bsck this up?
Do you believe that?
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ageshallnot
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#7
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#7
(Original post by Sophhhowa)
Basically the title. A professor at uni said to me that for every person there comes a point where no matter how hard they try the maths is just too hard for them and no amount of work, practise etc will ever help. For some people this happens at gcse and for others not until postgraduate maths. I’ve never thought this to be true but I thought I’d gather other people’s thoughts.
I hit the wall halfway through Maths A-level. At O-level (it was a long time ago) I am 100% certain that I achieved 100%. For most of the first year of A-level I was doing very well though for the first time it was hard work. Into the second year I was asking friends for help. There were elements that I simply couldn't comprehend.

Despite this I was entered for an exam called S-level (think STEM or similar). I scraped a C at A-level and an ignominious U at S-level.

I knew for a fact that I had reached my limit!
Last edited by ageshallnot; 1 year ago
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CoochieMan
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#8
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#8
This isn't true at all. I was someone who was naturally good at maths during GCSEs, never had to revise at all and I still got 9s easily. When A Levels came around I found myself fluctuating between grades at the start of year 12 bc I had the mindset that I didn't need to put the effort in, and that I'd do fine with just listening during lessons. I was clearly wrong.

You just need to find the motivation to want to do well, put in the work for it and you'll see yourself improve
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Mehvij12345
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#9
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#9
(Original post by ageshallnot)
I hit the wall halfway through Maths A-level. At O-level (it was a long time ago) I am 100% certain that I achieved 100%. For most of the first year of A-level I was doing very well though for the first time it was hard work. Into the second year I was asking friends for help. There were elements that I simply couldn't comprehend.

Despite this I was entered for an exam called S-level (think STEM or similar). I scraped a C at A-level and an ignominious U at A-level.

I knew for a fact that I had reached my limit!
Or did you consider that it maybe that way that element got taught was the problem? It just may be that you understand it in your own way?
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Yazoo_
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#10
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#10
(Original post by Sophhhowa)
Basically the title. A professor at uni said to me that for every person there comes a point where no matter how hard they try the maths is just too hard for them and no amount of work, practise etc will ever help. For some people this happens at gcse and for others not until postgraduate maths. I’ve never thought this to be true but I thought I’d gather other people’s thoughts.
I hate Maths, calculators were made for a reason.
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Muttley79
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#11
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#11
(Original post by Qxi.xli)
Do you believe that?
No of course not! I've taught students who've been told they will never pass GCSE/A level and they have .. what is the point of teaching if you hold the same opinion as that professor?.
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Muttley79
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#12
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#12
(Original post by ageshallnot)
I hit the wall halfway through Maths A-level. At O-level (it was a long time ago) I am 100% certain that I achieved 100%. For most of the first year of A-level I was doing very well though for the first time it was hard work. Into the second year I was asking friends for help. There were elements that I simply couldn't comprehend.

Despite this I was entered for an exam called S-level (think STEM or similar). I scraped a C at A-level and an ignominious U at A-level.

I knew for a fact that I had reached my limit!
S level was above A level - scholarship or special level - you could get Distinction or Merit or Ungraded.
Last edited by Muttley79; 1 year ago
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username3477548
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#13
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#13
(Original post by Muttley79)
No of course not! I've taught students who've been told they will never pass GCSE/A level and they have .. what is the point of teaching if you hold the same opinion as that professor?.
Ok few that's really good to hear.😊
I was doubting my math abilities for a second hahah😭
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C1rse
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#14
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#14
(Original post by CoochieMan)
This isn't true at all. I was someone who was naturally good at maths during GCSEs, never had to revise at all and I still got 9s easily. When A Levels came around I found myself fluctuating between grades at the start of year 12 bc I had the mindset that I didn't need to put the effort in, and that I'd do fine with just listening during lessons. I was clearly wrong.

You just need to find the motivation to want to do well, put in the work for it and you'll see yourself improve
Absolutely, I second this!
I found GCSE fairly easy and A-Level Single maths wasn't overly hard for me.
I hit a wall in A-Level Further Maths because I had not previously needed to put in the blood sweat & tears that the subject demands of you.
My peers who knew how to work at the time destroyed me in the exams.
As CoochieMan says: if you are motivated and work hard you will absolutely improve. They were and did.
Last edited by C1rse; 1 year ago
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3pointonefour
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#15
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#15
I think that it's true but I also think that people severely underestimate where there fixed point/"limit" actually is and it sounds pretty irresponsible for a professor to say that to a student without any detail or encouragement.

I think that most people can do well (as in an B-A*) at GCSE and A level if they were learning in ideal conditions - which unfortunately isn't the case for everyone. Maths can be a pretty demotivating subject so I can understand why it's easy to not get it after a few hours or even days/weeks of work and say "yep, that's my limit", when in reality they may not even have the concept explained to them in the way that they'd understand best or they're just unsure of their most effective revision method - which comes from practice, experimentation, just a bit of luck if I'm honest.

I only say this "limit" exists because it's evident that most people - no matter how hard they work - won't be able to possess the same knowledge, intuition, problem solving and innovation as Gauss, Euler, Cauchy and so on which is by no means a bad thing - but I can't deny that it exists.

Basically, yes people have a fixed point in maths but - as with all things human - you'll be surprised how far you can push that limit when you challenge yourself.
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harrysbar
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#16
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#16
I think it's true for a lot of people that they are really, really going to struggle past a certain point.

For me, I wouldn't be able to do A level maths, I needed a tutor to help me pass my maths retake exams at the age of 17. My son got A* in maths GCSE but stuggled by the second year of A levels.
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Dee-Emma
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#17
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#17
Think there's a case to answer that there comes a point for each of us of diminishing returns. I doubt it's a single parameter that controls this, but I suspect its probably a blend of interest, motivation, teaching environment and to a small extent inherent ability. Barring exceptional circumstances we each probably hit the other limits before the ability one becomes relevant.
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Cıllıan
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#18
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#18
Personally I think its abit of both environmental (eg Motivation, Teacher, Resources) and Innate (eg IQ, Love for the subject), but if you can get the best of both there is no limit until you get to the level of having to discover new things
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ageshallnot
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#19
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#19
(Original post by Muttley79)
S level was above A level - scholarship or special level - you could get Distinction or Merit or Ungraded.
Autocorrect or too much wine messed up the sentence I wrote about S-level! Yep, I got a well deserved Ungraded at S-level.
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Sophhhowa
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#20
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#20
(Original post by Muttley79)
Where is his/her research to bsck this up?
He said he hit this point in his second year. So it’s his own experience + 15yrs of teaching
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