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Everyone struggles with maths sometimes

Some people don’t believe it when we say that everyone struggles with maths – even top mathematicians find it hard sometimes! So here are just a few quotes from well-known mathematicians and scientists that show how they have struggled and persevered with maths.

Albert Einstein:

“Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.”

Charles Darwin:

“I attempted mathematics […], but I got on very slowly. The work was repugnant to me, chiefly from my not being able to see any meaning in the early steps in algebra. This impatience was foolish, and in after years I have deeply regretted that I did not proceed”

Laurent Schwartz (winner of the prestigious mathematics prize the Fields Medal):

“I was always deeply uncertain about my own intellectual capacity; I thought I was unintelligent. And it is true that I was, and still am, rather slow. I need time to seize things because I always need to understand them fully. […] I secretly thought of myself as stupid. I worried about this for a long time. […] At the end of the eleventh grade, I took the measure of the situation, and came to the conclusion that rapidity doesn’t have a precise relation to intelligence. What is important is to deeply understand things and their relations to each other. This is where intelligence lies. The fact of being quick or slow isn’t really relevant.”

Andrew Wiles (leading mathematician):

“Now what you have to handle when you start doing mathematics […] as an adult is accepting this state of being stuck. […] Some people find this very stressful. Even people who are very good at mathematics sometimes find this hard to get used to and they feel that's where they're failing. But it isn't: it's part of the process […] — you have to go through this. It's like training in sport. If you want to run fast, you have to train. Anything where you're trying to do something new, you have to go through this difficult period. It's not something to be frightened of. Everybody goes through it. […] We all find it difficult, it's not that we're any different from someone who struggles with maths problems […] I really believe that most people can really get to quite a good level in mathematics if they're prepared to deal with these more psychological issues of how to handle the situation of being stuck.”