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Dear David: Math Tests Are My Deepest Nightmare

Dr. Grant wants to see how well his responses stack up against those of ChatGPT. Read both results, vote for your favorite, and click “see previous responses” to view the results at the end.

A student wrote:

“I am feeling frustrated because I don’t understand the topic I am currently learning in math class, as well as everyone else is. It makes me feel really bad hearing all my friends answer all the questions quickly while I don’t even know what we are doing. I do understand that everyone is on a different path and there is no need to compare yourself, but I can’t stop the feeling. Suddenly I feel stupid and my eyes start tearing up, and that doesn’t help at all because then I feel even worse, and because I half crying and I DO NOT want to face anyone, especially the teacher.”

. Dr D.A Grant:

I have the same problem, but with languages. Others can learn tonal languages but all the words sound the same to me, so I am completely lost. Thankfully, my failures with languages do not define me, and I can laugh with those who laugh at me for these failings. I am sure that you are good at many other things in life, so be confident in yourself and be proud of what you can do well. This is a starting point. However, at least until you finish school, you have to face up to learning some math and find ways to increase your confidence. Speak to one of the math teachers privately and ask for help. I also very strongly advise to get a very supportive personal math tutor outside of school. Someone who can work out the fundamentals with you, give you tools to deal with math problems, and go through past papers with you so that you get over your fear of math. Finally, look on the bright side. There are many university courses and careers that need no math knowledge, and if you are successful enough you can hire your own accountant to keep track of your multi-millions!


Feeling frustrated and overwhelmed with a difficult math topic is a common experience for many students. It is important to remember that learning is not a race, and everyone has their own pace and learning style. Comparing yourself to others will only make you feel worse and hinder your progress. Instead, focus on your own progress and try to find strategies that work best for you. One strategy is to talk to your teacher or a tutor about your struggles. They may be able to explain the topic in a way that makes more sense to you or provide additional resources to help you understand better. You can also try breaking down the topic into smaller, more manageable parts and tackle them one at a time. It is also important to take care of your emotional well-being. Feeling upset and crying is a natural response to frustration and difficulty. Allow yourself to feel these emotions, but also try to practice self-compassion and remind yourself that it is okay to struggle and make mistakes. Taking breaks, engaging in activities you enjoy, and seeking support from friends or family can also help alleviate stress. Remember, learning is a process, and it is okay to not understand everything immediately. Keep trying and seeking help when needed, and eventually, you will succeed.

Need advice? Fill out this anonymous form to explain the issues you’re currently dealing with for a future Dear David column.