“Maths is hard”

Why is Maths Hard?

What is it that makes maths appear to be a hard subject? Is it all the rules you must follow or all the formulas you need to remember? Is it the focus on accuracy or all the strange unfamiliar symbols?

Most people you ask will tell you they found maths difficult at school and they were never very good at it. In the UK, it has now become culturally acceptable to be ‘bad’ at mathematics and we more than often overhear the words “I can’t do maths” (Kowsun,2008). Negativity towards the subject is, unfortunately, something that people take pride in and boast about. This may be due to the stereotype that maths has been given, thus leading people to believe that only the rare and gifted people are capable of doing maths. It is seen as male dominated and ‘nerdy’, all of which are untrue stereotypes.

A research study by BAE Systems found that approximately one in six adults admitted to being embarrassed by how difficult they find mathematics and one in five adults required the use of a calculator to work out simple sums. The proportion of adults struggling with mathematics has greatly increased as today, 49% of adults have the maths skills expected of an 11 year old child still at primary school (Garner, R. 2012). Low adult numeracy skills lead to many disadvantages in life such as difficulty getting a job, struggling to do their job as it may entail some form of mathematics or even just simply difficulty dealing with home finances and everyday shopping. Low skills in mathematics costs the nation around £20.2 billion (National Numeracy).

Importance of Maths

Little do these people know how important mathematics is to them and their everyday lives and perhaps, even how much they really use maths on a day- to-day basis. For example, a routine task of crossing the road requires many mathematical processes including estimating the speed of oncoming vehicles, the speed you can walk across, the time it will take you to cross and the distance to the other side. These are all common calculations our brain carries out each day however not many would include this as being ‘maths’ .The preconception is that mathematics is all about finding a ‘right answer’ whereas in reality, “mathematical discovery relies on the same guesswork that informs our everyday maths” ( Pound, L 2008). This meaning that maths is all around us and is vitally important to our lives.

Maths is for Everyone!

Despite all these factors insinuating that maths is hard, we as human beings are born mathematical which makes learning maths significantly easier than it would be otherwise.

Everyone can do maths and we all carry out calculations in our head every single day without our realisation. The only boundary we have stopping us succeeding in maths is our own attitude towards it. “Doing mathematics does not require any special ability not possessed by every one of us” (Devlin, 2000 p253).



Devlin, K. (2000) The Maths Gene London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

Garner, R. Independent. 2012. Almost 50 per cent of adults can’t do basic maths. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/almost-50-per-cent-of-adults-cant-do-basic-maths-that-means-half-7469119.html. [Accessed 6 October 2017].

Hall, J (2013). Adults Struggling with Basic Maths. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/adults-struggling-with-basic-maths-with-one-in-five-requiring-a-calculator-for-even-the-most-simple-8532488.html. [Accessed 6 October 2017].

Kowsun, J. (2008). This innumerate isle – Article – TES [Online] Available at: http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=2033102 (Accessed 6 October 2017)

National Numeracy. Attitudes Towards Maths. [ONLINE] Available at:https://www.nationalnumeracy.org.uk/sites/default/files/attitudes_towards_maths_-_updated_branding.pdf. [Accessed 6 October 2017].

Pound, L (2008) Thinking and Learning about Mathematics in the Early Years. New York: Routledge



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