I think it's mostly an innate skill, but I wouldn't worry too much about it. I'm quite good at mental arithmetic, but the times where I need to use it are fairly limited, especially when I started doing more advanced maths. 

What do you think about the possibility of improving your calculations speed in mathematics? Do you think that it is possible, or do you think that it is an inborn skill such as intelligence. 

I think it's mostly an innate skill, but I wouldn't worry too much about it. I'm quite good at mental arithmetic, but the times where I need to use it are fairly limited, especially when I started doing more advanced maths. 

It just takes practice, the more math you do the faster you will become. When your friend was young he probably practiced a lot and used flash cards, and memorized his times table and stuff. You did not. As you said you were lazy and used your calculator to much and now your slow. I am like you, I never really practiced much in math, and I don't do much home work(didn't need to). Hence I am very slow with most math. However, I am pretty smart and I grasp concepts easily, so I learn math easily and I can do most problems, I am just slow some times. 

I wish we had a dislike button for this answer... 

Last edited by PhilosopherStoned; 05182011 at 08:32 PM.
Previously PhilosopherStoned
If you are just trying to memorize something, it is the way to go. I don't really believe you when you say you can't memorize something, because anyone could memorize something if they do it enough. If you dreaded it so much, you probably were just going through the motions without really trying very hard, which is why you failed to memorize them. Now don't get me wrong, I understand trying to memorize some things is like trying to bang your head into the wall until you learn in and isn't all that effective in a lot of cases, but it does work. Things like using the little mental tricks to help you, are actually very useful for it as well. 

I actually find flash cards really helpful. I'm a visual learner, so what I do is write down a topic on a card, draw something that's related and going to stick in my head on the back of it, and go through them. It's how I remember all the stuff in sciences. Saying that though, maths is my worst subject. But I guess if I had put my mind to it more, it would have been better. I'm too lazy. 

The problem with flash cards (as I see it) is that I don't see how they can do anything but help you memorize stuff. I don't see how they can help you understand stuff. There will always be a higher information compression ratio with understanding than with memorization. If I understand a principle, I can "decompress" it into an infinite amount of facts. If I remember a fact, then I merely remember a fact. That's it. So I'd need infinite memory to memorize enough facts to match understanding one concept. What a waste of time. 

Previously PhilosopherStoned
It doesn't help you understand stuff, and it isn't suppose to help you to understand thing. Flashcards are purely for memorization. Obviously you need to understand what you are doing, but some times memorizing is important. 

I literally have no idea how I would go about straight out memorising a formula or method. It's a terrible idea. 

So instead of memorizing A squared plus B squared equals C squared for a right triangle, you regularly spend fifteen minutes measuring the sides and angles and doing trig to figure it out? There are a ton of formulas you end up memorizing, and you either do it because you used it so often that you memorizes it, or you practice memorizing it. Though it is often a mix of both, of you repeating it in your head a bunch of times, and then also practicing it in actual problems. 

...what does this even mean? 

Actually yes, when I was learning stuff like sin^2+cos^2=1, I memorized it in that form. Same with the others. It makes spotting them in equations, or using them far easier. I think you are misunderstanding, in that I said you are suppose to learn how it works first. So your not memorizing anything you don't already understand. You are memorizing stuff you already know, so you can do it a lot faster, and more accurately. 

Alric's post + Xei's post = the same thing. 

Isn't that what I already said? You need a ton of practice. 

Hey this question goes out to anyone who is relatively good at maths. So I want to start teaching myself maths but I don't really know where to start, a rubric would be great like "learn X then you will be great at Y and then you can start Z". Should I just start out with algebra and work my way through geometry, trigonometry to calculus? 

The best approach is an algebraic one. Learn all of the rules of arithmetic (including things like exponential identities); learn about polynomials (the factor theorem, the fundamental theorem of algebra, et al), and get to grips with solving general equations and manipulating math. Algebra is basically the language you will do all maths in, at least nowadays. Also learn about arithmetic and geometric series and the binomial theorem. You then want to learn about some of the basic theory of functions; learn some useful functions such as sin, cos, log and the relations between them. I barely know any geometry; the most important things to learn by far are the trig identities, and some other little things like the pythag theorem, radians, and simple stuff about circles, along with a basic understanding of coordinates. At this point I'd imagine you can start to learn calculus; the meaning of differentiation and how to differentiate any function you can write; various applications of differentiation. Then learn about definite integration and Riemann sums, and learn how it relates to anti differentiation. Then there's a whole host of integration techniques. 

Awesome thanks. I have a basic understanding of algebra so I'm on the right track! 

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