Agree with the posts above. Learning to learn is the most important skill you develop in any situation. True in school, work and climbing. The more you arm yourself with a solid foundation, the better chance you have of success.

One advantage of learning is it opens new doors. You can choose to have a career or you can choose physical labor. At least you have a choice.

After high school, I took a year off and lived in the Valley. I think most people call them "gap years" now. At the end of the year, decided school wasn't for me, took a year living in the car. Eventually, when I was 30, I headed off to college. Now I have a career that is rewarding and I can afford to travel to various climbing areas around the globe.

Unfortunately I have set vacation dates, so some areas I will never get to. Well, unless I take another GAP YEAR soon.

Cheers from Mongolia where the weather is warming up and it's almost time to go climbing outdoors again. Just need to buy a drill to put up some new routes.

Don't listen to all these naysayers, Whitemeat. The World is ruled by powerful people who are clueless yet somehow talk an army of lackeys into doing all their dirty work. This thread is proof positive that you are destined for greatness, though you still have a ways to go in perfecting your technique.

Think about it, Clinton talked Hillary into tackling health care, Madelaine Albright into tackling diplomacy, and his Willy into tackling Monica Lewinski. The dude makes bank now giving speeches, and you can bet your favorite haul bag that he doesn't write them.

Math, shmath, that's what calculators and Internet forums are for.

The World is ruled by powerful people who are clueless yet somehow talk an army of lackeys into doing all their dirty work.

If they were clueless, they wouldn't know how to talk others into working for them...

The lackeys who are not clueless can become powerful people, when they learn how to talk others into working for them. But when they end up working for others, maybe it's just because they need the money.

Knowledge is power. Learning how to learn can yield knowledge.

One of the many problems in math education is the tendency to treat the subject as procedural. Here's how you do this, here's how you do that. This boils down to viewing the learners as automata that need to be programmed to carry out certain tasks. The machines do not need to understand any of the issues surrounding or raised by the tasks, they just have to know how to accomplish the tasks.

The result can easily be Pink Floyd's Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)

We don't need no education,
We don't need no thought control!

Given this situation, I don't find it at all surprising that lots of people hate something they think is math, and are anxious to tell others about the irrelevance of the thing they think is math. I don't find it surprising that people forget all the procedural mumbo-jumbo as soon as possible, even when they are going to need it in a few months for the next math course.

Modern life takes place embedded in an ether of mathematics, an ether that is invisible to most people, but which shapes and, by and large, enhances their lives and small and enormous ways every day. It may well be that only a relatively few wizzards need to understand the workings of this matrix, but it does seem appropriate, at the beginnings of education, to at least start people on a path that will allow them to become wizzards some day, if the calling beckons.

Math grad students make lots of money tutoring people who thought they'd never need to know any math, but who now find their career opportunities and future dreams obstructed by their lack of mathematical knowledge. True, these people may be a small minority, but I can tell you from the other side of the tutoring relationship, that it sucks to be them and they are painfully aware of it.

For those who, like climbers with climbing, see something compelling where others see something repulsive, mathematics is far more than the hidden rods and levers of the utilitarian ether mentioned above. It is, much like climbing, a limitless world of intricate problems and solutions, interesting for their own sake, with no concern for potential utility.

A number of years ago, there was an ad in one of the climbing magazines that mentioned a seminal mathematical event. A mathematician by the name of Andrew Wiles had recently invested almost all of the waking hours of seven years in a successful effort to prove a theorem (the Taniyama-Shimura Conjecture) which has as one of its consequences a famous unsolved problem called Fermat's Last Theorem. The ad showed a bunch of boulderers staring up at a problem, recounted the fact that Wiles had spent seven years working on and finally "sending" his "project," and ended with, "Can you relate?"

Yeah, so I think climbers, more than almost anyone, can relate to mathematics.

One of the many problems in math education is the tendency to treat the subject as procedural. Here's how you do this, here's how you do that. This boils down to viewing the learners as automata that need to be programmed to carry out certain tasks. The machines do not need to understand any of the issues surrounding or raised by the tasks, they just have to know how to accomplish the tasks.

The main reason I was a failure at the subject thru elementary and High School.

When I started my electrical apprenticeship it became clear that AC theory was all math, especially trig.

So, I tried to get some classes at the local JC only to be told I'd have to basically repeat everything with the same methods that had been a failure before.

So I found out you could take optical design without the math prerequisites. Realizing that this was going to be mostly applied trig, I signed up.

Three or four semesters later I'd mastered all the trig I needed plus, matrices of simultaneous equations, and started programming in fortran.

Yeah, teaching math in a vacuum isn't the way to do it for most of us.

When I went back to school in my late 30's I was dreading calculus and statistics. I was in a ULV remote class at So Cal Edison's HQ and most of my classmates were women that had been the high school math whizzes.

It had me worried at first, but it turned out to be completely unfounded. Algebra and trig were part of my daily life, they hadn't applied it since high school. After a couple of weeks they were all coming to me for help.

Yeah, teaching math in a vacuum isn't the way to do it for most of us.

Many people don't learn how to watch their blood sugar until they develop Type 2 diabetes.

Fundamental skills are fundamental skills. 'Tis a shame that "most of us" 'Mericans won't listen to the lessons learned by the people who have struggled through life ahead of us.

Math grad students make lots of money tutoring people who thought they'd never need to know any math, but who now find their career opportunities and future dreams obstructed by their lack of mathematical knowledge (rgold)

Forty four years ago, as a PhD grad student, I drove weekly to Bell Labs in Denver to teach a refresher math course to senior engineers. I think we all learned something.

The fundamental skills can be taught applied to the real world and NOT in a paper vacuum.

Of course.

But they can also be taught in a vacuum. Math is math -- it's application independent.

Real-world examples make it more pertinent, but the fundamentals don't change.

The idea that it's only relevant if one can immediately apply it is the problem. That was my point: if students will listen to the people who have been-there-done-that and suck it up to learn the fundamentals, then they will have the fundamentals before they need them.

Or, they can wait until they need them.

Kinda like practicing first aid and self-rescue before the emergency, no?

Back in High School they sent me to the county math contest. Wut? I was a stoner but I went anyway. I had always been really good at whatever math classes threw at me. I am not competitive. I have been a cook for most of my adult life and I consider my knowledge of mathematics as a strong part of how I approach challenges in my chosen field of endeavor.

Don't be a dumbsh#t, whitemeat. You are way cooler than that.

It's not just about learning it before you need it. It's simply easier to learn those esoteric problem solving and structural concepts when your brain is in the roughly 11-16yo range.

Glad you found Kahn academy, that's exactly the kind of site I was talking about. In my case, the makers of the actual textbook, that the students were using, had videos online where an instructor worked through the example problems for each chapter. You might check with your instructor and see if that is an option with your particular textbook. Good luck!

The post that Elcapinyoazz made upstream is very insightful.

The value in learning math is not the procedure, but the way it trains one to think. But that has to start somewhere. It's easy to say that when it is taught as a set of procedures that it becomes meaningless. But the reality is if you try to teach a 1st grader how to think mathematically without procedure, most will be lost (and perhaps even intimidated by the subject for a life time.) If you teach a person procedural skill, then it can be applied to developing a way of thinking. Developing this way of thinking is a lifelong pursuit for me.

Making math engaging, by (for example) having the kids take measurements to perform math on, is an education school myth. For one thing, most kids don't get too fired up about "real world" data because today they have so much at the touch of a keypad that it just doesn't impress them very much.

Also, the value in math is its ability to describe abstract things, things that cannot be described otherwise. As kids get older and increase their proficiency in math, it is undesirable to try to make it too "concrete". The ability to think abstractly is the goal, and math is the perfect vehicle for training the brain to think in this challenging way.

These platitudes are becoming a horrible bore. He wants to climb. His story is timeless. I wish him the best of luck. He will follow the patterns that have been set for him by his family and only he can change them, if he wishes, in due time, possibly never.