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Mathematics Education 1


Why Students Hate Mathematics

Adam E. Marcus

Glen Allen High School

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This review looks into the causes of the hatred of mathematics that has become so

common among our youth. The two main causes stem from teaching style: too much individual

work and too many rote tasks. Within the classroom, these things have inspired boredom rather

than enthusiasm for a subject which is essential to every adult whether they like it or not. In

order to improve upon our current methods of mathematics education, teachers must implement

collaborative and cooperative teaching styles within their classrooms, as well as provide more

opportunity for creative problem solving in order to prompt interest and enjoyment from the very

students whose hatred of mathematics grows stronger every day.


In the United States education system, mathematics is commonly referred to by students

as their least favorite subject, with many claiming that they even hate it. But while some see it

as young students simply enjoying other subjects, the neglect of mathematics skills that

accompanies a hatred of the subject leaves our youth unprepared for their future, one which

requires some mathematical skills from every individual, regardless of their attitude towards it.

Mathematics is an essential part of an adults life, whether it be in the form of taxes or car buying

or paying a mortgage, therefore our next generations of adults must all have a foundation free

from resentment of the subject, so that they may effectively carry mathematical skills forward in

their lives.

Individual vs. Group Work

Within any classroom, a mix of individual and group work is important in helping

students succeed, as well as grasp the material better. However, in todays standard mathematics
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education, individual work is far more common than group work, leading to decreased student

interest in mathematics because it doesnt allow the opportunity to communicate

mathematically, reasoning mathematically, [and] develop self-confidence to solve mathematics

problems (Zakaira, Chin, & Daud, 2010). One such solution to this issue of individual work

and its lack of student communication is cooperative learning. According to Zakaira, Chin, and


the cooperative learning approach resulted in higher achievement than the traditional

teaching approaches. The reason for the increase in students achievement could be

caused by the students involvement in explaining and receiving explanation in which the

concepts can be easily understood. Cooperative learning gives more space and

opportunities for students to discuss, solve problems, create solutions, provide ideas and

help each other (2010).

In addition to increasing achievement in mathematics, the same study also stated that,

the cooperative learning approach increase attitude towards mathematics. This is

probably because when students work in group they feel that they can depend on others

for help and therefore increase their confidence in solving mathematics problem. This

may indirectly change their attitudes towards mathematics. Cooperative learning also

emphasizes social interaction and relationships among groups of students in particular

and among classmates in general. Cooperative learning actively involves students in the

learning process (2010).

However, while cooperative learning may be a very effective set of processes which help

students work together to solve problems and accomplish goals, teachers should simultaneously
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practice the personal philosophy of collaborative learning (Panitz, 1999). Collaborative

learning is defined by its central idea that students should work together and build off one

another not just during group activities but all the time. With both collaborative learning

philosophy and cooperative learning processes, teachers will be able to create the optimal

learning environment for their students, one which inspires the communication and reasoning

necessary to succeed in mathematics.

Rote Tasks vs. Creative Problem Solving

Todays education system is so focused on statistics, rather than education. They value

improving a students mathematics scores first and promoting true understanding of the subject

second. As a result, teachers teach the students how to do problems by showing them a process

and having them practice it until they can do it in their sleep. What they fail at, however, is the

understanding that must accompany a positive attitude in mathematics, because,

a childs growth in mathematics involves more than just mastering computational skills.

Identification of mathematical talent using only speed and accuracy of computation

would qualify hand-held calculators to be called talented mathematicians. Mathematical

talent requires creative applications of mathematics in the exploration of problems, not

replication of the work of others. Problem solving is the heart of genuine mathematical

activity, yet the supply of curricular materials designed to support a problem-solving

approach to mathematical instruction is small in comparison to the materials aligned with

a procedural, mechanical point of view (Mann, 2006).

Additionally, most students simply complete their mathematics work and classes out of a sense

of professional obligation. They have little appreciation and are disengaged from the subject.
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This is because mathematics is perceived by students as an isolated subject that lacks

opportunities to work with other students. This is because they resent mathematical learning as

a rote-learning activity that involves the manipulation of unquestionable rules, instead

preferring collaboration and group work within all contexts, teaching styles and learning

environments (Nardi & Steward, 2003).


Mathematics education in our country today is too focused on individuals learning

processes which will not fail them and practicing those processes for hours on end, causing many

students to become bored of the subject, breeding hatred of it as well. Instead, our educators

must focus on collaborative and cooperative teaching styles that allow the students to work and

communicate with one another, as well as more creative problem solving over rote memorization

if our next generations are to graduate to adulthood prepared to face the inevitable mathematical

challenges of their futures.

Research List

Mann, E. L. (2006). Creativity: The essence of mathematics. Journal for the Education of the

Gifted, 30(2), 236-260.

Nardi, E., & Steward, S. (2003). Is mathematics TIRED? A profile of quiet disaffection in the

secondary mathematics classroom. British Educational Research Journal, 29(3), 345-


Panitz, T. (1999). Collaborative versus Cooperative Learning: A Comparison of the Two

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Concepts Which Will Help Us Understand the Underlying Nature of Interactive Learning.

Zakaria, E., Chin, L. C., & Daud, M. Y. (2010). The effects of cooperative learning on students

mathematics achievement and attitude towards mathematics. Journal of social sciences,

6(2), 272-275.