TL;DR: Use Khan Academy to master one level before moving to the next.

Many people believe they are “just bad at math”. Maybe even most people believe this about themselves. But it’s possible that it doesn’t have to do with a deficiency in Spaghetti-Monster-given talent. Consider the following alternative hypothesis.

In grade school, you advanced through the levels of math, each time you were tested on your ability to see if you were fit to proceed. A passing grade is anything over 50% of the right answers. 85% on a test is a really good grade.

The problem with this system is that knowledge in math builds upon itself. If you only have a 85% understanding of a concept before you move on to the next one, you’re going to be confused or at least find it harder than you would have if you’d mastered the previous steps. Gradually you may become more and more confused as you rise in levels since you haven’t mastered any of the concepts. By the time you are in Grade 12, you have concluded that you aren’t very good at math.

To test this hypothesis, go to Khan Academy. Start from where you know you are able to get 100% on a test and proceed from there.

Khan Academy is built around the concept of mastery. You master one level before moving to the next. The format is videos that tend to explain things remarkably clearly and then practice exercises and tests to see if you understand. The tests aren’t scary. They are just to a way for you to know whether or not you understand.

Using this method, you can go all the way from counting to multivariable calculus.

…but first: The Number One Stumbling Block

Your main obstacle will not be lack of talent. It will be finding the motivation and time in your day.

Working in isolation, relying on pure willpower almost never works. To set yourself up for success I highly recommend joining our Sharpen the Saw group. It’s a group of people, which includes me, who prioritize to learning every day. We keep each other going and provide companionship for the journey. It makes it a lot more fun. To maintain membership, you have to make a post almost every day, showing that you are taking a bit of time for learning on most days.

Ignore this at your own peril!

To summarize

  1. Join Sharpen the Saw.
  2. Practice on Khan Academy for a few minutes per day, and report what you did by making a post to our group page

Bonus: The book How to Bake Pi by Eugenia Cheng may get you thinking about and appreciating math in a really different way than you were taught in school.