Do you think math is hard? When did you start learning math? Who taught you math? Did you usually use a calculator?
  • To have a head for sth (idiom) - to have the mental ability to do something well.
  • Glaze over - if your eyes glaze or glaze over, they stay still and stop showing any emotion because you are bored or tired or have stopped listening.
  • Atrophy (verb) - (of a part of the body) to be reduced in size and therefore strength, or, more generally, to become weaker.
  • Arithmetic (noun) - calculations involving adding and multiplying, etc. numbers.
  • Torturous (adj.) - involving a lot of suffering or difficulty.
  • Sum (noun) - a calculation, especially a simple one, using such processes as adding, taking away, multiplying, or dividing.
  • Times table (noun) - multiplication table.
  • Rote learning - learning something in order to be able to repeat it from memory, rather than in order to understand it.
  • Vice versa (adverb) - used to say that what you have just said is also true in the opposite order.
  • Precise (adj.) - exact and accurate.
Get exclusive episodes on IELTS Speaking parts 1, 2, and 3
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Questions and answers
M: Rory, do like math?

R: No, and I probably never will. I think numbers are just too abstract for me and I don't really understand them. I understand that they're important. I get that. But they will never be my thing. It's something that I share with my mom, not really having a head for numbers.

M: Is math difficult to learn?

R: Extremely. I can't describe how it feels to any great degree of accuracy, but I can just feel my eyes glazing over and my soul begs for all to end whenever I encounter math or any mathematical equation. I think it's just the effort of creating the abstractions in my head. I can do this with words, like I'm good with language, but I can't do it with numbers. That area of my brain seems to have completely atrophied by now.

M: Do you think math is hard?

R: Well, for me personally, yes, but I didn't have terribly good math teachers when I was younger. That wasn't their fault entirely because I wasn't a good student either. And the whole situation of math education just wasn't well suited to me learning it, to be honest with you. More generally, though, at least at the basic levels of arithmetic, it shouldn't be so torturous for people, especially young people in smaller classes like you can do some sums in your head, for example.

M: When did you start learning math?

R: Oh, primary one, I think. That's our equivalent to the first grade. We had to learn times tables by heart and do long division. Not in primary one. I think that times tables came a little bit later, but we started doing like basic addition and subtraction in primary one. But it was all learning by rote and it was all very dull and it was useful for basic arithmetic with money and things. But beyond that, it wasn't terribly... We didn't have much utility.

M: Who taught you math?

R: Oh, my teachers mainly. My mum and dad tried to help, but I think they were as frustrated as I was by the end of it, to be honest. The information just wasn't digestible, no matter which route we took. So I think this was why rote learning was basically the only the only route that we could take.

M: Did you usually use a calculator?
R: Usually? I always use one for everything more than basic sums that I can't do in my head. And I don't even bother with the formula, frankly. I just sort of... Either I'll find some sort of equations website online that can do more advanced formula or I'll ask a friend. I know a lot of math teachers. Every English teacher should know a math teacher and vice versa. That's really useful.

M: Rory, thank you so much for your precise mathematical* answers.

R: Hopefully, hopefully everything adds up or added up.
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