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I want to major in computer science, but I'm so bad at math that I'm starting to lose hope.

nxover8nxover8 3 replies1 threads New Member
(I'm new here. I'm sorry for getting all ranty and whiny -- this is is really killing my soul right now. TL;DR at the bottom of post.)

OK, let me explain a little bit -- I'm a sophomore in highschool, but my school is meant to get me out of there with both my highshool diploma and my associates. I love computers & science. However, I'm awful at math. How bad? I'm so bad that I couldn't take the first college algebra class because I couldn't pass the test to get in. I needed a 245 -- I got 116. I retook it numerous times, and it seems like my scores never go up, no matter how much I study (in fact, sometimes my score drops). I took every pre-req class on my campus, only barely passing them each with 70-73%.

Now, here's the big kicker. If I don't move up in my math skills, I will either have to

A: Change my entire major, and depending on what I change it too, I won't be able to graduate even with a highschool diploma.

B: Completely drop out/transfer schools.

I feel like it's worth mentioning that I'm dealing with untreated depression and ADHD because my parents won't get me the support I need and desperately want. They both interfere with my school life and my ability to learn, one way or another.

On the flipside, I've passed my college-level computer courses (programming, IT essentials, Linux, working on networking currently) with Bs and As, and I love them at that.

I just... don't want to give up my dream of majoring in computer science, but every time I take that stupid math test and get the same or a lower score on it, the dream fades farther and farther away. I'm planning on withdrawing from stats because I have a 46% in it and my teacher obviously doesn't care about my 504 plan or anything about me for that matter. I have no one to talk to about this, as my parents will just go on the "you gotta change your mindset sweaty" tangent and my counselor will just tell me to suck it up and retake the class until I get it. I just feel like I'm a broken record on repeat screeching for help but people just kinda... I don't know... ignore it?

Anyways, that went on for longer than I thought it would, and again, I'm so sorry for being whiny. I just feel so defeated and lost at the moment. Please, any advice is welcome at this point.

TL;DR: Struggling OP wants to major in a math-intense major, but sucks at math and is currently on the verge of snapping.
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Replies to: I want to major in computer science, but I'm so bad at math that I'm starting to lose hope.

  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls 6411 replies1 threads Senior Member
    One thing that you need to really, really understand about math: What you learn today is based on what you learned last week and last month and last year. What you are going to learn next year is based on what you are learning now.

    You do not want to jump ahead in math. You want to learn at a reasonable pace.

    Jumping ahead in math is like building the top of a skyscraper when the foundation is still broken and not solid. It will just fall over.

    Another issue: In math do not try to just memorize things. You need to understand the concepts. You should try to understand why things work the way that they do.

    Graduating from high school already having an associate's degree might be nice, but it is very much not needed.

    I went to a high school that did not even teach calculus at all. It was not offered. My pre-calculus class in high school was the smallest class that I had ever had in my life up to that point. This is okay. I still graduated from MIT with a bachelor's degree in mathematics. The point is not to get ahead quickly (I did not). The point is to show up at each level fully understanding what you were supposed to learn at the previous level.

    "I took every pre-req class on my campus, only barely passing them each with 70-73%"

    This is exactly the issue. You are not fully understanding the previous course before you start on the next course.

    You might want to get a tutor over the summer and/or take on-line math classes. Focus on getting a more complete understanding of what you were supposed to already fully understand, and on understanding the concepts.
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  • aunt beaaunt bea 10270 replies70 threads Senior Member
    I'm sorry but I have an issue with this:
    my teacher obviously doesn't care about my 504 plan
    This was written with your needs in mind. Your teacher should be following your goals. Your parents need to meet with your teacher and the administrator at your school site for 504's.
    The reason for your 504 is that the way you learn is "outside-the-box" and different from the general step-by-step teaching. Your learning has to be "attacked" in another mode.
    The math courses will continue to be difficult. You need to develop strategies that help you learn some of the formulas that are used over and over again. You need to learn how to substitute symbols for terminology. It's a different process.
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  • nxover8nxover8 3 replies1 threads New Member
    One thing that you need to really, really understand about math: What you learn today is based on what you learned last week and last month and last year. What you are going to learn next year is based on what you are learning now.

    You do not want to jump ahead in math. You want to learn at a reasonable pace.

    Jumping ahead in math is like building the top of a skyscraper when the foundation is still broken and not solid. It will just fall over.

    Another issue: In math do not try to just memorize things. You need to understand the concepts. You should try to understand why things work the way that they do.

    Graduating from high school already having an associate's degree might be nice, but it is very much not needed.

    I went to a high school that did not even teach calculus at all. It was not offered. My pre-calculus class in high school was the smallest class that I had ever had in my life up to that point. This is okay. I still graduated from MIT with a bachelor's degree in mathematics. The point is not to get ahead quickly (I did not). The point is to show up at each level fully understanding what you were supposed to learn at the previous level.

    "I took every pre-req class on my campus, only barely passing them each with 70-73%"

    This is exactly the issue. You are not fully understanding the previous course before you start on the next course.

    You might want to get a tutor over the summer and/or take on-line math classes. Focus on getting a more complete understanding of what you were supposed to already fully understand, and on understanding the concepts.

    Whoops, I didn't word that really well. We only had one pre-req class per se, but there were different teachers teaching them. The first teacher I was being taught by had a strong hatred against everyone (especially kids who had special learning disabilities), naturally making it really hard for me to progress in the class. She was eventually fired, and I retook the course with another teacher. I still struggled and couldn't place for college algebra. I wanted to continue trying to master it, but at the rate I was learning, I'd easily fall behind on credits and I wouldn't be able to graduate, so I had to take *some* sort of math, which ended up being statistics (plus my guidance counselor didn't want me in a class "full of the awful freshmen," so I didn't have much of a say at that point.)

    I do like that advice, though. I guess I'll backtrack a bit and see how it goes.
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  • nxover8nxover8 3 replies1 threads New Member
    aunt bea wrote: »
    I'm sorry but I have an issue with this:
    my teacher obviously doesn't care about my 504 plan
    This was written with your needs in mind. Your teacher should be following your goals. Your parents need to meet with your teacher and the administrator at your school site for 504's.
    The reason for your 504 is that the way you learn is "outside-the-box" and different from the general step-by-step teaching. Your learning has to be "attacked" in another mode.
    The math courses will continue to be difficult. You need to develop strategies that help you learn some of the formulas that are used over and over again. You need to learn how to substitute symbols for terminology. It's a different process.

    As mentioned in my reply to DadTwoGirls, my school has already had a bad incident regarding that *same* problem. When it was brought up, she claims that I'm not "truly applying myself" and my case was automatically dumped. If I keep reporting this, it will eventually look like I'm just playing the blame game to excuse my "laziness."
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  • blossomblossom 10332 replies9 threads Senior Member
    Nxover- if you love computers, there are other things to study besides computer science. Virtually every field now requires some programming ability.

    Agree that you should stop worrying about getting your AA alongside your HS diploma. First things first- you gotta get through HS.

    You need to escalate the issue with your teachers not taking your 504 seriously. If it means a cordial meeting with the principal first- do that. And then go straight to the district office/superintendent. It's not just about math- teachers don't get to decide that they are going to "opt out" of the 504 plan- that's part of their job which they get paid to do.

    Take a look at other computer adjacent fields that don't require so much math. Construction Management if you are good visually? Packaging Design if you are good on the application stuff but not the theoretical? Information Systems (basically the people at a company who keep all the operating systems, computers, etc. running) where you need to understand the stuff you are good at.

    Then- you need a strategy for passing your math courses. Is there a student in your class who is a math whiz who seems to be good at explaining things? Is there a teacher you had in elementary school who understood how your brain worked, who might be open to some tutoring? Get creative here.

    The single best advice I ever got in my entire life was "don't love anything that won't love you back". You CAN pass HS math- I'm sure of it- but you don't need to assume that your life is over if the college curriculum in CS is going be the death of you. There are plenty of ways to take your love of computers and translate that into a field where you will excel and where your talents will be advantages, not disadvantages.

    Have you ever looked at a CAD-CAM program or anything design related? Computer animation and gaming? Are you a good writer? Companies pay good money to people who write well in plain language but who love computers- someone's got to explain to all those Grandmas and Grandpas how to hook up their devices and synch them to Alexa!

    Good luck. You can do this even if your parents aren't on board.
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  • compmomcompmom 11535 replies81 threads Senior Member
    First, focus on finishing high school, maybe forget about the associate's for now, and while still in high school focus on subjects you are good at and enjoy. Just take math classes you can do well in, and your understanding will increase and you will have a foundation.

    Computer science is indeed dependent on math and usually physics as well. The math can be quite advanced. I would stop hitting your head against the wall and come up with another plan.

    Look at your community college for programs that are related to computers, as others have suggested. You are good at programming and probably good at fixing things that go wrong. There are careers in those directions.

    If your 504 is not being followed, call your regional Dept.of Education, Office for Civil Rights. I have done this myself. Or find an advocate. Some organizations have advocates in training who are free.

    Do you take medications for your ADHD or your depression? Do you have a psychiatrist? Getting help for those two problems can also include coaching and therapy.

    Why are you so fixed on majoring in computer science? Just curious. There are other ways to be successful :)
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 9799 replies110 threads Senior Member
    I have a couple of thoughts.

    If you have already been diagnosed with ADHD and depression, go talk to your school psychologist or counselor if your parents aren't getting you the treatment you need. IMO, that should be your priority.

    In terms of math, I agree with response #1. Math builds on itself and it sounds like you are missing a solid understanding of the building blocks. D I also agree that finding a tutoring and spending the summer really focused on math will be of benefit.

    I also agree that there are many career options outside of CS that are open to you. You may want to explore some of the computer technology options that are less math heavy if this doesn't turn around.

    Finally, it stinks that there are bad teachers but that's the case at every school, and sadly even in college. It's your job to be make it through those courses. Finding the resources you need to be successful is on you. Blaming bad teachers isn't a good look.






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  • tkoparenttkoparent 373 replies7 threads Member
    This is maybe primitive advice, but are you using Khan Academy as a resource? Their math support is really terrific.
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  • nxover8nxover8 3 replies1 threads New Member
    tkoparent wrote: »
    This is maybe primitive advice, but are you using Khan Academy as a resource? Their math support is really terrific.
    I started looking through there today, and their math selection is amazing!
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  • RelicAndTypeRelicAndType 200 replies0 threads Junior Member
    1. Can you transfer to a more conventional high school? In my experience community college teachers are not well suited to high school students' needs, especially when things like a 504 plan comes into play.

    2. I'll echo others above and say don't jump ahead in math.
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  • simba9simba9 3360 replies20 threads Senior Member
    edited April 12
    You don't need to have a CS degree to be a programmer or work with computers. Most of the people I worked with who were software engineers didn't have CS degrees, although almost all had some kind of STEM degree. See if you can find some kind of program that doesn't stress math the way CS would, such as IT or web design and development. That's a way to get your foot into the software or IT departments. If you would like to do some programming, mention during your interviews that you would like to have the chance to do that Some places will be very open to that, but others won't, so make sure you find out beforehand. After a couple years, work experience will matter much more than a degree to most employers.

    If you have some well-written applications that you can demonstrate to potential employers, many companies will take that in lieu of a degree. It will be harder to get a job that way, but it's certainly doable. And again, once you get a couple years of experience, that matters more than a degree.

    In high school I was horrible at math. I flunked intermediate algebra. If I got a C in a math class, I was ecstatic. I viewed math as nothing more than useless proofs and pointless letter juggling, so I usually zoned out during math lectures. Later when I was in the Air Force, I took a class at a local community college called "Applied Calculus." No proofs. No pointless letter juggling. Just example after example of how math was used in the real world, which I found shocking, eye-opening, and totally motivating.

    That single class changed my academic career and life more than other class. One thing that helped was that I had a job in the Air Force where I just sat around doing nothing until a war broke out, so I had a lot of time to study while on duty. There's no way around it - you have to study. Once I solved a problem, I'd work through it again probably half-a-dozen times. Then I went and did the same with problems in the book that weren't assigned. I got an A, which would have been inconceivable, prior. I actually got pretty good in math after that (although I still had a mental block when it came to proofs) and ended up getting a CS degree.

    I also had unsupportive parents. I didn't really want or need their support, but they were still an annoyance and constant distraction. That's one of the reasons I went into the Air Force and enrolled in a college on the other side of the country - to get away from them.
    edited April 12
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