Maths problems

This is how I found a solution to my struggles with maths. All workings are provided.

Andrea Oh

Published: 27 July 2015, 4:15 PM

Before I tell you about my feelings regarding mathematics, let me show you a few of my tweets on the subject.



I posted these tweets a few months before my ‘A’ Levels. If you are wondering how my maths exam went, suffice it to say that I started hyperventilating with panic after the first five minutes.

Out of all my subjects, maths was the one for which I studied the hardest. So it was incredibly disappointing, not to mention frustrating, that I never once scored anything above an S grade.

Ever since primary school, maths has been my academic stumbling block. Despite the various tuition and remedial classes I attended, my grades saw little or no improvement. I did, however, become very well acquainted with Andrew Er – or rather, his series of assessment books.


Also known as the bane of my primary school life.
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Eventually, the time came for me to sit for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).

I still remember feeling hopeful as I stepped into the exam hall, and the subsequent sense of dread as I left question after question blank. This was followed by anger – mostly at myself – as well as anxiety, because my grade for mathematics could bring down my overall score.

Things did not change much over my next six years of formal education, possibly because I had subconsciously developed a phobia of mathematics. However, I now see that although my struggle was real and complex, it was also imaginary.

(If you do not understand the pun, good for you. It means that you have never been introduced to the horror of complex numbers.)


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I am definitely not naturally inclined towards mathematics. However, if I had stopped associating my self-worth with grades, I would probably have done much better.

As things were, I was trapped in a vicious cycle. My self-doubt caused me to panic whenever I encountered concepts which I could not understand. Panic caused me to be unable to think clearly. Being unable to think clearly resulted in bad grades, which led to even more self-doubt.

I have many feelings which I associate with mathematics, and most of them were not enjoyable. But now, without any academic pressure, I can better appreciate the unorthodox beauty of mathematics.

Quirky creations such as these allow me to appreciate mathematics.

As an arts student, my favourite subjects often deal with grey areas and uncertainties. So it is sometimes comforting to know that there will always be constants in life; and one of those constants is mathematics. As Cady Heron from Mean Girls said, “it’s the same in every country”.

Besides, I believe that my struggles with mathematics allowed me to grow as a person. With mathematics, I learned more than formulas and theorems; I also experienced the bittersweet satisfaction of doing your best, regardless of whether it shows in your results.

To everyone who struggles with mathematics, press on! I will be rooting for you.

PS: If nothing else, maths provides excellent opportunities to make puns.

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