Algebra! Calculus! Geometry! Arithmetic! How can we even begin to describe these unspeakable horrors, guaranteed to strike fear, anxiety, nausea, paranoia, madness, and paralysis into the hearts and souls of all? Mathematics, most of all the advanced courses that delve in otherworldly chaotic theories, easily presents itself as torturous, mindscrewy, or just downright mind-rapingly Lovecraftian- to the point that the old man himself indeed was big on this bandwagon, largely because of having a problem with math himself.
Irrational fear of the theorem of Pythagoras is inevitable. Even the most basic of long division is portrayed as mind-bogglingly difficult, especially for parents helping their grade-schoolers do homework. Usually when trying to portray math in this light, writers (particularly in visual media like film) will show a piece of paper/whiteboard/blackboard full of abominably complex equations; use of integral signs, Gratuitous Greek letters (particularly pi and sigma), daemonic occultist geometries, the accursed variables 'x' and 'y' and suchforth are prevalent. Any scene where mathematics is being taught will invariably result in children being bored, falling asleep, or in a few cases, succumbing to gibbering schizophrenia from the Cyclopean confusion of it all (thus the Mad Mathematician).
To those who practice it, higher math is an art form like any other. The average person can criticize it as incomprehensible, but so are many beautiful and acclaimed works of art and science. Mathematicians imagine a situation, often very simple (a triangle inside a circle, or a sequence of numbers) and then through imaginative and often esoteric application of very basic axioms, find out incredible things; the axioms are the mathematician's paintbox, and the situation in question is their canvas. Constructing a proof is analogous to writing a poem or painting a picture; math is actually more about imagination, intuition and game-like problem solving than about simply following learned formulae and methods. Unfortunately math education doesn't work like this; children are taught in bland black-and-white that a^2 + b^2 = c^2 or that sin(2a) = 2sin(a)cos(a) but will never, or rarely, be told WHY, or asked to prove it; merely to commit these methods to memory, regurgitating them onto a set of dry, uninspired questions and exercises as required.
Probably occurs because Writers Cannot Do Math. Alternatively, the boredom and hatred the writer had for math may cause Writers Cannot Do Math. Even more alternatively, people who show talent and interest for math tend to be drawn into lucrative math-needing careers, leaving the next generation of writers to be drawn from the set of people who Cannot Do Math. In other (more cynical) words, if writers could do math, they'd be doing the math careers and getting paid big bucks instead of hammering out romance novels to avoid starvation!
See also: E = MC Hammer, in which writers who cannot do math try to represent it onscreen, and Mad Mathematician, in which people who do enjoy math are portrayed as utterly deranged.
Contrast Good with Numbers.
Note: Americans say "math" on the basis that it's an uncountable noun, but in the UK, they say "maths" on the basis that it's short for "mathematics," which, while still an uncountable noun, ends with "s." Use the right word in the examples for whichever dialect you use. If you're not sure, just use the non-abbreviated "mathematics," which is correct on both sides of the Atlantic.
Examples:
- When Yukari from Azumanga Daioh gets tired of being just a language teacher, she decided to teach math instead... for about five seconds; then she realizes she's not up to the task and switches to P.E., outdoors, in the cold. Even Minamo (generally the more competent of the two) is shown to be less than proficient in mathematics.
- InuYasha: In one episode, Kagome actually had a nightmare about geometry.
- In the first episode of Cardcaptor Sakura, Sakura mentions that her least favourite subject is math.
- Kamen no Maid Guy's Naeka has difficulties with math that are as massive as her chest. Exactly as massive, in fact, because the central gag of that episode is that math skills are inversely proportionate to breast size. (Okay, she doesn't excel at other lessons but math is the one made most prominent). On the flipside, Kogarashi taught at MIT. It's that kind of series.
- In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's, Suzuka is the only one amongst Nanoha's circle of school friends who is neither an elite mage in a setting where the construction of magical circles requires a good deal of math, nor an overachiever who gets top marks at everything. She thus has sub-par grades in mathematics, although her language grades are not much better.
- Rikka in Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions is frankly terrible at it. While she lucks out in the anime due to the class average being lower than usual, in the light novels she has to retake the exams at least thrice, and passes none, with her highest being 30/100.
- Hilariously, Ed and Al in Fullmetal Alchemist find their math class boring, so they do alchemy-related math instead. They could have found the class too easy, or maybe they just don't like math that doesn't relate to alchemy.
- It's revealed in Dragon Ball GT that Goku can't even count without getting nervous. This caused problems for a short while when he needed to pull off a synchronized attack with Pan on Luud.
- A continuity error since, way back in the original Dragon Ball, Master Roshi taught Goku how to count, and he had no such problem when the MC asked his age in the first Martial Arts Tournament he took part (he thought he was 12, but he learned he was 14 when he learned to count).
- In Dragon Ball Z, Goku was able to count up to 9,999 during his training. Before he could say 10,000, his spaceship flew through a magnet field that changed the influenced the gravity control of the spaceship, and the gravity suddenly went up from 50G to 100G.
- In Dragon Ball, Chiaotzu was very weak at basic math, and since he needed to use his hands to perform his telekinetic attacks, Krillin was able to distract him by yelling some simple equations at him, forcing Chiaotzu to use his hands to count, and giving Krillin the opening he needed to knock Chiaotzu out of the ring. Chiaotzu's master then regretted neglecting that part of his student's education.
- In the manga adaptation of Yume Nikki, Madotsuki backs out of the Number World after commenting that she's bad with math. Even ambiguous characters un-ambiguouosly hate math.
- Mirai Asahina from Maho Girls PreCure averts Book Dumb for all subjects except for one: math. Thankfully, Riko (her partner) is Good with Numbers and agrees to help her. Despite this, Mirai nearly falls asleep after only 5 minutes of studying for a make-up exam. When Riko calls her out on it, Mirai responds that "Math is not exciting".
- Assassination Classroom's class 3-E seems to have the most problems with mathematics, with 8 of its students listing it as their weakest subject. Thankfully, they have Koro-sensei to alleviate that.
- This honestly wouldn't be too bad in a normal school. But Principal Asano, who created Class-E as an incentive to the other classes to keep working hard so they don't end up in said class, can't stand the thought of Class-E actually daring to be achieve in their studies. So when mid-terms and final exams roll around, he stuffs the questions with college grade problems (keep in mind the setting is a middle school) most of which include advanced mathematics. Heck the final showdown between Karma and Asano's son is an extra tough math problem. Ironically Karma manages to solve it by realizing he can think outside the box then trying to solve it straight and is even surprised at how easy it was when the solution came to him.
- In Fate/Apocrypha, Jeanne d'Arc possesses the body of a young girl named Laeticia. In between battles, Jeanne decides to do Laeticia's math homework for her, but finds it vexing and considers it a true trial on par with battles to the death. Sieg eventually gives her a few pointers.
- The Star Wars Customizable Card Game has Brainiac.^{note } Brainiac's destiny number is pi. And his power is sqrt(3(x-y)+2(a-b)+pi), where x is the cards in your opponent's hand, y is the cards in your hand, a is the number of Force icons on your opponent's side, and b is the number of Force icons on your side. And this in a game where life totals are always integers. The fact that you're taking the square root makes this card effectively useless, especially if you're in the lead by an amount such that 3(x-y) + 2(a-b) < -pi; that gives him imaginary power.
- Perhaps the most legendary story on this topic in comics is Disney's "Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land" from 1959, which was subsequently adapted as an animated cartoon. Forced to study his nephews' math book after Uncle Scrooge announces that Donald is in debt to him, Donald becomes so discouraged that he blurts out "I wish mathematics had never been invented!" - and as punishment is whisked off to Mathmagic Land, where is forced to learn that math is "the queen of all sciences...yet the greatest servant to man." Ironically, he returns from his journey thinking that mathematics is fun, and uses his new knowledge to play a joke on Scrooge.
- The Bash Street Kids in The Beano who absolutely hate maths. This trope is averted with Cuthbert though who absolutely loves doing hard sums.
- Justified in the instance of Jubilee from the X-Men - turns out she has dyscalculia, the mathematical equivalent of dyslexia.
- And the first Wolverine and the X-Men comic ends with a brochure on courses, including "Algebra Sucks, I Know, But You Still Have To Learn It".
- Inverted in Karma In Retrograde. Touya made sure he was damn good at math so he could manage his finances while he attended U.A. While he enjoys reading, he hates Japanese literature and English, struggling in those areas even with Iida's help.
- Fates Collide: Nora Valkyrie gets really annoyed that she has math class. She tries to use the fact that she had earlier saved her teacher's daughter's life to get an automatic A, but her teacher says while he is grateful, she's not getting off that easily.
- In Incredibles 2, Bob tries to help Dash with his math homework, but is told that he has to do it in a new way (a possible Take That! to the Common Core). This frustrates Bob, because he is unfamiliar with that method.
Dash: Uh, dad? They want us to do it this [shows page from textbook] way.
Bob: What?! That doesn't make any sense, why would they change math?!
Dash: Dad, it's oka—
Bob: Math is math! MATH IS MATH!
- In Mean Girls, Cady pretends to hate math to fit in with everyone else, even though she actually enjoys it. She asks the boy she likes to tutor her, even though he's even worse at it than she pretends to be.
- Averted in Better Off Dead, which has the most enthusiastic class ever.
- In The Mirror Has Two Faces, Jeff Bridges is a math professor trying to figure out how to keep people interested in his class.
- In Real Genius the main character is attending a high-level math class that is initially full. However, as the semester wears on, the students are increasingly replaced with tape recorders until eventually even the teacher is replaced by a reel-to-reel recording, leaving our hero to brave the terrors of calculus alone.
- In Peggy Sue Got Married, the (seemingly) time-traveling title character tries to get out of math class by saying that she knows for a fact she will never use the course material in her adult life.
- In Principal Takes A Holiday, the math teacher is shown constantly droning on in a monotone voice, refusing to answer any questions until the end of the lecture. Finally, when the new (fake) principal changes the rules in the formerly-uptight school, one of the students refuses to take this and demands to know "what is X?" This prompts the teacher to try to make his class more engaging and entertaining.
- In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Pintel, one of Those Two Bad Guys, seems to believe this, as his answer to Tia Dalma's question "What vexes all men?" is "Sums?"
- Stand and Deliver shows that learning calculus at Garfield High School is every bit as challenging as the larger goal of escaping from poverty, with one student even having a Heroic BSoD over it.
- In Harry Potter, Hermione actually somewhat enjoys Arithmancy, the magical equivalent of math, but all the other characters find it fiendishly difficult and avoid it at every chance. (In one conversation, Hermione does acknowledge that she considers Arithmancy the most difficult subject in her class rotation, though it's another class that ends up as the lone E on her report card.)
- Averted in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. The narrator Chris is a mathematical savant, and finds mental calculations relaxing.
- Bella in Twilight hates math; it's her worst subject.
- In The Princess Diaries, Mia hates — and doesn't understand — math, be it pre-calculus or geometry. This makes it awkward when her mother marries her geometry teacher.
- Adrian Mole noted that one of the benefits of joining his local Good Samaritans group is that he gets to miss maths on Mondays.
- Anne of Green Gables hates Geometry. Hates, hates, hates Geometry, even though she had to teach it. When she got married she tossed all of her textbooks in a trunk and locked it with great gusto. If not for the great cost of books in those days, it stands to reason she may have burned them.
- There exists a book called I Hate Mathematics! written specifically to deal with the Real Life examples.
- The protagonist of The Confusions of Young Törless is actually quite intrigued by some mathematical concepts but finds his actual math teacher drab and disappointing.
- Yamagi Noriko from Project NRI is a brilliant mathematician. Oh, and she hates math.
- In a non-fiction example, this trope helps explain why actress-turned-mathematician Danica McKeller (yes, Winnie Cooper from The Wonder Years) authored three books aimed at middle-school-aged girls to encourage developing their maths skills; "Math Doesn't Suck", "Kiss My Math" and "Hot X: Algebra Exposed".
- The Science of Discworld parodies A Brief History Of Time, which notes the editor's belief that each equation halves a book's sales. The Discworld book chooses not to include a specific equation, and thus doubles its sales.
- Averted by Stacey McGill in The Baby-Sitters Club, who actually enjoys math and is very good at it. In opposition to the Mean Girls example above, she even makes herself appear SMARTER in math than she really is (or at least AS SMART as she really is, as opposed to dumbing herself down to attract a guy) to try and attract the attention of her Student Teacher Math Teacher, Wes Ellenburg. The BSC Series plays the trope terrifically straight with Claudia Kishi.
- Honor Harrington has a mental block when it comes to math. She's actually quite capable when she has to make an intuitive, off-the-cuff course change in the middle of combat, but her performance anxiety in lower-pressure environments leaves her with a justified dislike of astrogation.
- Sansa Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire is good at everything a lady ought to be good at—except for the math necessary to keep track of the household accounts.
- Inverted in one of the Star Trek expanded universe novels. Wesley Crusher's roommate was "getting an 'A' in every class that counts," that is every class involving math, but was flunking most of the other classes that "counted" towards graduation.
- Wizarding School in the The Wheel of Time has an abandoned and unused section of the library that no one ever uses. It contains math books.
- Averted by Keladry of Mindelan in Protector of the Small, who likes and is quite good at even advanced math (to the point that her friends among the pages half-jokingly say they would have failed mathematics to a man without her help). Tamora Pierce states this was to space Kel a little apart from her previous main characters in Tortall, who were never stated to hate it but were disinterested at best.
- Dave Barry Slept Here:
And thus began the Space Race, which was to have an enormous worldwide impact on Mrs. DeLucia's fifth-grade class, which was where we were at the time. All of a sudden Mrs. DeLucia was telling us we were going to have to study a LOT more science and math, including such concepts as the "cosine." As if the whole thing were our fault.
Discussion Question 2: Have you, or has anybody you have ever met, ever found any use for the cosine? We didn't think so. - Detective Shunpei Kusanagi of Keigo Higashino's novel The Devotion of Suspect X absolutely dreads learning math, which was his worst subject in high school, and consequently majored in sociology in university. His friend, Manabu Yukawa, is physics professor and frequently uses his knowledge of science and math to help him solve cases, and has the nickname of "Detective Galileo".
- Amory Blaine, the protagonist of This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald, dislikes math and science, and prefers studying literature and history. His mentor Thayer Darcy is similarly not a fan of math.
- In The Man Without Qualities, Robert Musil defines a soul as "that which runs away and hides whenever someone mentions algebra".
- Confessions: Way back in the fourth century, Augustine attributes his hatred for school in large part to his distaste for math, preferring the idle stories of The Aeneid and other Latin epics.
- In Will Save the Galaxy for Food, people have turned math terms into ersatz swearwords.
- An educational children's book by Marilyn Burns and Martha Weston is entitled, The 'I Hate Mathematics!' Book. Of course, some Reverse Psychology is secretly in play here and it's actually designed to show how mathematical reasoning can be fun.
- Young Ned in Pushing Daisies
- In an episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun, Dick was severely disheartened to discover his students didn't actually like physics, and even more so when his least favorite student was the only one who did.
- NUMB3RS plays with, inverts, and subverts this trope. Several characters, including lead Charlie Epps, love math, and those who don't love math are dependent on those who do. Which is spelled out in the opening narration:
- "We all use math every day! To forecast weather, to tell time, to handle money. We also use math to analyze crime, reveal patterns, predict behavior. Using numbers, we can solve the biggest mysteries we know."
- Deconstructed in The Wire. While most of the low-level criminals do think that math is boring, they do acknowledge its importance: Failing to maintain a proper count of his merchandise and income can land a drug dealer in big trouble with his boss. Likewise, detectives Freamon and Pryzbylewski show how to crack codes, detect patterns and track down the criminals' money using math. When Pryzbylewski pursues a career in education, he initially has problems keeping his class interested in math. He gains his students' interest when he shows how to use probability math to gain an advantage in gambling (which gets him in a bit of trouble when his superiors find out). And while drug kingpin Russel Bell puts his evening lessons in economics to good use during the day, his enthusiasm fails to rub off to his underlings or his partner-in-crime, Avon Barksdale.
- In Saved by the Bell, Jessie Spano's famous road to destruction all started with a geometry midterm.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Anya was an extremely powerful vengeance demon who got turned into a human girl. She was lamenting her fate with "For a thousand years I wielded the powers of the wish. I brought ruin to the heads of unfaithful men. I brought forth destruction and chaos for the pleasure of the lower beings. I was feared and worshipped across the mortal globe and now I'm stuck at Sunnydale High! Mortal. Child. And I'm flunking math."
- Which may have been the one that really got her, because in later seasons, she was quite economically minded.
- The title character of Everybody Hates Chris (as well as the other kid characters) are examples of this trope. This in itself is unremarkable, but the opening credits in some seasons depict a textbook cover that reads "Everybody Hates Trigonometry." Additionally, one episode of the series even bears the title of "Everybody Hates Math".
- In The Adventures of Shirley Holmes, Bo and Parker, especially. In "Calculated Crime," Sussex Academy suddenly eliminates math from its curriculum...
Bart: Do you know what that means?
Bo: Yes. I'm having the luckiest day of my life, possibly of anyone's life, ever. - In Queer as Folk, after Ted (who's an accountant) has gotten a new job, Emmett calls him:
Emmett: Hey! I just called to see how it's going.Ted: Oh, it's great, couldn't be better.Emmett: So what's it like?Ted: Glorious. I have a desk and a chair and a computer.Emmett: What's the colour scheme?Ted: Beigey grey. Or greyish beige, take your pick.Emmett: Well, that sounds perfect, honey. Alright, just stay off youknowwhat.com. [hangs up] Thank you God, for making me bad at math.
- Averted and played straight by in the Doctor Who episode "42". At his typical lightning speed, the Doctor solves a riddle involving happy primes and complaining about lax educational standards, commenting "Talk about dumbing down - don't they teach recreational mathematics any more?" Played with briefly in "City of Death" with this exchange:
- Duggan: What's Scarlioni's angle?
Doctor: Scarlioni's angle? Never heard of it. Have you ever heard of Scarlioni's angle?
Romana: No, I was never any good at geometry.
- Averted with Ueda Jiro of Trick, who uses mathematics to expose tricks that utilize probability rather than sleight of hand.
- In the Ten Little Murder Victims episode of Square One TV's Mathnet, the villain has purposefully picked his victims because they managed to overturn their convictions by using math, which he's convinced is cheating because he doesn't follow their explanations.
- An episode of 7th Heaven involved Annie and Mary breaking down and crying about how much they hated maths.
- Degrassi: The Next Generation does this with polynomials. It's an in-joke; polynomials foiled all the writers in math class.
- Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide: Ned hates Math. Cookie loves it and Moze initially loved it, but started having trouble with it after her regular teacher was replaced with a student teacher. She was adamant that she did not hate it, though.
- Averted in Person of Interest. Harold Finch has to pose as a substitute teacher in "2-Pi-R", and is aghast at the idea that maths is punishment (they've been assigned a maths problem as punishment by their regular teacher). He ends up giving the class a Mundane Made Awesome speech on the subject of Pi.
- The Mr. Potato Head Show: One episode had the TV Guys tell Mr. Potato Head and his crew to do an educational superhero show. When Mr. Potato Head's character sang a song about the Pythagorean Theorem right before a battle with an evil robot, the evil robot just moaned "I hate math!", filled up its bubble-helmet with whipped cream in a panic, and fainted.
- In Veep, Jonah struggled in math class (he claims to have a learning disorder, although this is either true or him trying to excuse his stupidity), which comes up when his strained relationship with his former stepfather-now-father-in-law is revealed, in that his former stepdad was his math teacher and gave him bad grades. While running for President, Jonah gets back at his former stepdad by rousing his supporters about how he'll ban math because not only is it hard, but because algebra was invented by Muslims and their numbers are "Muslim numbers" (Arabic).
Jonah: Algebra?! More like AL-JAZEEHRA!
- The Jimmy Buffett song "Math Suks".
Geometry and trigonometryThere are numbers to big to be namedNumerical precision is a science with a missionAnd I think its' gonna drive me insane
- Sam Cooke's "(What A) Wonderful World" features this verse:
Don't know much about geometry
Don't know much trigonometry,
Don't know much about algebra,
Don't know what a slide rule is for. - Humorist/songwriter/math professor Tom Lehrer's song "New Math", from That Was the Year That Was, pokes fun at this attitude, especially the result of the 1960s attempt to introduce set theory in elementary school.
Hooray for New Math, New Math
It won't do you any good to review math
It's so simple, so very simple
That only a child can do it! - Moosebutter's song "Uncle Earl's Hairpiece", which mostly contains lyrics about various bad things that have happened to the singer, contains the lyric: "My poor brain was pureed when I tried to do math..."
- During Pink Floyd's P*U*L*S*E tour, the intro video for "Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)" showed a student's hand writing "E=MC^2" on a test sheet full of other formulas, and scribbling it out in frustration.
- In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin has historically had a strong aversion to arithmetic.
- He once claimed that math was a religion, and that he, as a "math atheist", should be excused from taking it.
- His dad once tried to engage him in his homework.
Dad: Pointing to homework page ...Now, look, you've put here that 8-3= 14. You know that can't be right.
Calvin: Why not?
Dad: You can't subtract from something and get something bigger.
Calvin: Yes you can! It's a free country! I can do what I want!- After that lesson, Calvin and Suzy made a bet over who could get a better score on the math test, with the winner getting a quarter (25 cents). After Calvin, unsurprisingly, bombs the math test, he tells Hobbes about how he ended up winning because instead of giving Suzy one quarter, he gave her three dimes (30 cents). Hobbes tells him he should study more.
- And on another occasion, when he and Hobbes are careening down a hill on their toboggan:
Calvin: I wonder if we could find out how fast we go on our sled.
Hobbes: I suppose we could measure the height of the hill, the length of our descent, and input that in the proper formula.
Calvin: That sounds like math.
Hobbes: Um... yes...
Calvin: Suddenly I've stopped caring. - One of Calvin's Spaceman Spiff fantasies has him imagining summoned to the blackboard to solve a first-grade arithmetic problem (11 - 4) as being chosen as a Human Sacrifice to the alien God of Evil known as "Nollij."
- The Far Side once showed us "Hell's Library", filled with nothing but books full of story problems.
- Another showed a math phobic's worst nightmare: Heaven having a complicated "Train Leaves at X Miles Per Hour" story problem as an entry requisite.
- In one Foxtrot strip, Peter recounts how a Marine Corps recruiter said that enlisting guaranteed getting up at dawn, to do rigorous exercises, eating bad tasting food, and other hardships that come with joining the military. When Paige, his sister, asks how that's supposed to entice them to sign up right after high school, Peter responds that the recruiter pulled out a thick college algebra textbook to show what the alternative is, and says "He couldn't hand out the applications fast enough!."
- Several arcs of Peanuts showed Sally struggling with the "new math" and driving both Charlie Brown and Linus up the wall as they tried tutoring her. Peppermint Patty doesn't like it either, although the problems asked in her class are often hard ones that grade school students wouldn't be studying. (Ironically, she really hated learning the metric system, something Schulz seemed to believe the United States would eventually adapt.)
- Played with in the case of The Kimber Bombs, who will eagerly use mathematics to justify their inane stance, and in the process expose that they are really bad with numbers, which always throws off their equations. Cherry is openly intimidated by numbers with more than two digits.
- The subject is addressed in an episode of The Infinite Monkey Cage, "The Return of Science". One guest, Professor Robert Winston, expressed the opinion that, in his experience, ignorance of science, mathematics and engineering in intellectual circles and the media was much less acceptable since the 2000s.
- Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!: For the "Lightning Fill in the Blank" segment, the third-place panelist leading into the segment goes first, then the second place and the lead. Before the last panelist goes, the host, Peter Sagal, asks the scorekeeper how many correct answers that panelist needs to get in order to win the game. Since the questions are worth two points in this segment, this involves a bit of math, and awareness of how the standing even or odd scores will affect whether a tally will be a tie or a win. (The formula is usually, "She needs five to tie, and six to win.") Peter sometimes lampshades this as "the math question". Guest scorekeepers can react to it with varying levels of enthusiasm.
Corey Flintoff: (under his breath) I hate this.
- Bill Engvall recounts a time that his preteen daughter came to him for help with her math homework:
Bill: "Sure, baby, let me take a look at that for ya."*Alternates wide-eyed glance between his daughter and her worksheet before handing it back to her*Bill: "...When'd they start puttin' letters with it?"
- The early 90s "Teen Talk Barbie" doll would say, "Math class is tough!" The phrase was later removed due to controversy: it seems that the Moral Guardians, along with math teachers, did not want to encourage the stereotype that girls suck at math. The stories about it at the time mostly omitted the word "class" from the statement, which is probably why there was such an uproar: "Math class is tough" means "This particular course is difficult." "Math is tough" was taken as implying "Girls are stupid." Amongst Barbie's many jobs over the years, she's been a dentist, pediatrician, and veterinarian (all jobs which require high level math skills to get through the schooling), so it's assumed Barbie should be good at math (however, being proficient in something doesn't exclude believing it's difficult).
- In Exile/Avernum II, you and your party (which may include wise, bearded scholars adept in both forgotten lore and cutting edge magical research. People who have deciphered and learned complex spells from faded parchments buried in the ruins of ancient civilizations, written in tongues long dead) visit a sleepy little bed & breakfast owned by a farmer. While poking around, you discover books owned by the farmer's wife, full of horrifyingly alien texts and eldritch symbols detailing a strange magic none of you can comprehend. If you ask her about it, she tells you what they're about with a sigh: Algebra.
- Inverted in Tales of Symphonia. Zelos's only good subject is mathematics, despite the general impression that he is lazy and has no good subjects. (He freely admits that he graduated at the top of his class by having his harem attend lectures for him and pass the answers during tests.)
- Inverted in The World Ends with You:
- Sho Minamimoto has an obsession with math, he interjects mnemotechnic anagrams for the three basic trigonometric functions or the operation order into his dialogue and screams out this same trigonometric functions in battle.
Some Old Horses Can Always Hear Their Owner Approach- Minamimoto's ultimate attack, a level i Flare, can hit anything^{note } . Or it would, if Joshua hadn't sacrificed himself for Neku.
- Inverted with Kenny Kawaguchi from Backyard Sports, who likes math and almost nothing else in school.
- The Calculator class in Final Fantasy Tactics. Everything depends on multiples and prime numbers. If that's not enough, good luck figuring out what "L? Spell" means in any other Final Fantasy game without a guide, and there are literally only four levels where it's safe to take on certain enemies in Final Fantasy XII, one of them being 1 (though because FFXII's battles are real-time and not turn-based, you can always just change your equipment to protect you from the effects - even when the enemy is already casting his spell). For those not familiar with the games, a spell like "L4 Stop" (written as "Lv. 4 Stop" in newer games) inflicts the Stop status only on characters whose level is a multiple of four. FFXII boss Zalera has "Lv. 2 Sleep", "Lv. 3 Disable", "Lv. 4 Break", "Lv. 5 Reverse", and "Prime Lv. Death", meaning that to escape every one of these attacks, your level should be nonprime, but have no prime factors smaller than 7. After level 1, the next such level is 49 (7x7) followed by level 77 (7x11) and finally level 91 (7x13).
- Aya of Touhou shows in Bohemian Archive in Japanese Red that, while Ran Yakumo may enjoy doing math in her spare time, not everyone in Gensokyo shares her enthusiasm for the subject.
Ran: Here, an equation of a thousand expressions.
Aya: Ack!
Ran: And here is the proof.
Aya: Ughhhhh. - The talking teen Barbie is parodied in Kingdom of Loathing with the Apathetic Lizardman doll. "Math is kinda hard. But, y'know, it doesn't matter." Also in the "Hobopolis Zone," When you choose not to enter the Marketplace you get the message, "You don't feel like going shopping. Perhaps it's because you find math so easy."
- A few Professor Layton puzzles can be solved by algebra instead of riddles (here's an example), but the hints point out it won't be fun and you should figure out the riddle instead. It is also a common trick for a puzzle to make algebra an immediate source of an answer, but make the real answer quickly found by wording snag. Other puzzles, however, do require mathematics to solve, such as trigonometry, calculating the area of a circle, and algebra.
- In Katawa Shoujo
Miki: Screw math. It's boring as hell.
- Miki is the most blunt about it, but no one else in the cast especially likes mathematics. Hisao's teacher Mutou prefers science, as does Hisao himself, Lilly's main interest is in English and Rin and Nomiya have a passion for art.
- Escape From St. Mary's: Your hatred of math class sets you off on your adventure.
- Made into a Running Gag in MadWorld with the announcers. Kreese Kreely is a Book Dumb commentator who always overreacts to the mere mention of anything to do with math.
"Nobody said there'd be math!"
- Thousand Arms has the "Math Book" as a gift toward the girls, many of whom are clearly not happy to accept it.
- In PlanetSide 1, the Scorpion siege weapon system became a universal Scrappy Weapon because it required trigonometry to use; the player would aim somewhere, lock the detonation range, then aim it a few degrees above of their target, then fire the rocket so that it would detonate and rain shrapnel on the enemy. In practice, it would always overshoot, undershoot, or detonate too low or too high unless you used trigonometry.
- Talking to Chie on a certain night in Persona 4 will see math described in such terms as "my arch nemesis" and "Math is truly the enemy of mankind."
- In Baldi's Basics in Education and Learning, not only is math so hard that it's literally unsolvable, but getting even a single problem wrong sics a psychotic lunatic on you.
- Combined with An Aesop in WarioWare Gold: 9-Volt hates math, but loves video games, so his "pet" Fronk explains that sometimes it's easier to tackle math when you break it down into something relatable (in this case, hit points/damage in an RPG). It's easier and more fun that way!
- In Final Fantasy XIV, the Ridorana Lighthouse has a boss named Construct 7, which tasks the players to solve a simple math problem or two. Get them right, and Bob's your uncle; get them wrong, and the resultant defense debuff means you'll be needing a revive momentarily. The notes scattered throughout imply that the previous explorers, er... didn't know their times tables very well.
- A Running Gag in Drowtales is Ariel's dislike of math.
- Inverted in xkcd. Everybody that mentions math loves it. One of the Content Warnings on the site, however, mentions that the comic may contain "advanced mathematics, which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors."
- Secret, of Keychain of Creation, when told she is going to face one of her fears, looks at the summoning circle and wonders if that fear will be geometry.
- In Vinigortonio, Vinicius seems like a calm guy until he comes across math, which turns him into an uncontrollable monster.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series, Joey derides math, then has trouble subtracting attack points from defense points. As Tea puts it: "It's official; you're an idiot."
- At Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe, math is Tennyo's worst subject. She dreads her genius brother finding out. On the other hand, Phase is a freshman and is taking trigonometry with the juniors and seniors. And there are the Mad Scientist types who have already placed out of all high school math. Also, Carmilla created a theory of mutant powers based on post-doctorate level mathematics. (Of course, this one's kind of justified by her having already had an not entirely uneventful adult human life before turning into what she is now. Adding the superhuman processing power of her new form to that can't have hurt.)
- Possibly Adverted in Tankmen when they are running for their lives and challenge their enemy to a game of shoot between the buildings. When they miss one of the tankmen pop up behind them and declare "Should have used the Pythogrem Theorem, Bitch" and proceeds to attack.
- The Geometric Simplification Act, which will reduce pi to 0 decimal places.
- OneyNG's Algebra Aversion has Satan trying to help Leo do his homework... but the end result has him freaking out and damning Algebra.
- Calculus was tough.
- Maddox wrote an entire page spitting in the face of this mentality, explaining that mathematics is the reason that major scientific developments such as oil platforms, medicine, and space travel exist. This is explained by the fact that he has a degree in mathematics.
"Why is math the only discipline that has to put up with this bullshit? People gladly learn art, music, literature and geography. You'll even nod like a happy idiot when you learn what a haiku is, and you never complain or whine about how you'll never use this in your "life." When is the last time you wrote a haiku, asshole?"
- If you go on Tumblr and browse the "mathematics" and "math" tags, chances are a good chunk of the posts will consist of users complaining about the latest math homework rather than mathematics itself.
- Scootertrix the Abridged has an odd take on this. Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belles, and Scootaloo are prodigies and pre-teen graduates of a prestigious military academy. But when they're forced to attend grade school among other, ordinary kids, they react to questions like "6 + 2 = ?" as if they're impenetrable witchcraft. Though it doesn't help that their teacher, Cheerilee, spends the whole class barking questions at random and yelling at anyone who gets the answer wrong.
- From A to Z-Z-Z-Z: Ralph has to solve a math problem in class, but can't. He then imagines the numbers laughing at him and fights back at them.
- ''Arthur: "Sue Ellen Adds it Up" opens with Sue Ellen explaining that she and her parents don't care for math and use estimation and trial and error in situations which call for measuring. Prunella gives Sue Ellen a hard time about not incorporating math into her life, but helps her when she needs to alter her plans for displaying her art project.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: During one of Aang's pre-invasion nightmares, he must ... take a math test he didn't study for! The horror!
- In Danny Phantom, this is the main hero's worst subject in school. Especially problematic since his goal is to work for NASA/become an astronaut.
- Averted in Batman Beyond; Terry actually does well in math and indicates that he enjoys it. He says his father made him memorize the times tables when he was a kid, and easily answers the subsequent math question his girlfriend throws at him. (Played semi-straight with her; she can do it, but she doesn't like it much.)
- In Wakfu, Tristepin cannot count past two.
- A Futurama episode plot involves a mind switching device that could only switch minds that haven't been switched before. Amy and the Professor try it first, but realize they can't switch back directly (since Amy and the Professor's minds have already been switched). In trying to figure out if they can switch back to their proper bodies with 4 or more bodies, the Professor announces that they'll have to use math to figure it out. Cue ominous music plays. The writers themselves clearly averted it here - they went so far as to produce a proof showing that it can be done using two fresh bodies.
- Beavis And Butthead, not surprisingly. Not only are they unable to do algebra, but they can't do any sort of math 99% percent of the time, even if chicks, money and nachos are involved. At one point, a teacher asked them what two plus two was. They were unable to answer.
Butthead: I'm, like, angry at numbers.Beavis: Yeah! There's, like, too many of them and stuff.
- Daria: Math, Jane Lane's least favorite and worst subject ever.
- The edutainment short Donald in Mathmagic Land plays this straight at the beginning, when Donald insists that math is for "eggheads". The Spirit of Adventure manages to convince him otherwise, by showing him how mathematics influences things like music theory ("Without 'eggheads', there would be no music!") and even parlor games.
- Applejack of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic accuses Big Macintosh of "using yer fancy mathematics to muddy the issue" in "Applebuck Season", when he tried to convince her "one pony plus hundreds of apple trees just doesn't add up" and that she should find someone else to help with the harvest instead of going it on her own. In "Suited for Success", she also has an apparent bit of difficulty counting to six.
- In The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy episode "Substitute Teacher" Billy brings Grim to school to help him pass his math test, later he asks him for answers and Grim replies that he doesn't know any math and that he informed him it was a history test and Billy replies "What's math?", and we later see for one of his answers he drew a picture of a clown with a flame thrower.
- In the The Powerpuff Girls episode "Him Diddle Riddle", Bubbles claims she hates math; this is contradicted in a later episode where she claims she likes it (but Buttercup does not). Buttercup tests into Honors Math in the reboot, though.
- Star vs. the Forces of Evil: Star really doesn't like Miss Skullnick's math class, but in "Mathmagic" her stubborn refusal to try and solve a math problem nearly causes a catastrophic Temporal Paradox.
- Kaeloo: Stumpy hates math more than any other subject and has difficulty counting higher than the number four.
- Nate Is Late: In "The Kid from the Future", Nate and Malika travel into a portal to the future and see what their school is like. To their horror, it has very strict rules, robots are drilling the kids in math around the clock and every student is given a clock that showcases how many hours of detention a student has. Detention itself? Being stuck on an exercise bike and forced to solve math problems, with every wrong problem making the bike go faster. Gets even more ludicrous when they start throwing in algebra and arithmetic into the mix.
- In one episode of Fairly OddParents, when Timmy is asked to write the answer to 1+1 on the board, he calculates it as equaling 3. Just as Mr. Crocker is about to mock him for it, Stephen Hawking shows up (due to a wish Timmy made earlier in the episode about not being wrong) and writes a proof explaining that 1+1 can equal 3. In The Stinger, Mr. Crocker has found out that 1+1 actually equals 4, but he gets incinerated into bits by Stephen Hawking's jetpack wheelchair.
- Of course, despite it being the least popular subject in academics, this is generally averted in Real Life. Even the very first civilizations such as the Sumerians, the Babylonians, and the Egyptians had to use some form of mathematics to progress their lives, and of course, every other civilization followed suit. Whether people like it or not, and while our numerical presentation of mathematics is definitely inferior to the real thing, it can't be denied that mathematical logic is an essential part of life and no society can truly advance without it. From the objects in outer space to the fauna up to our own bodies, everything runs on mathematical logic. To call for the abolition of it would be certifiably insane. Quoth Roger Bacon:
Roger Bacon: Mathematics is the gate and key of the sciences... Neglect of mathematics works injury to all knowledge, since he who is ignorant of it cannot know the other sciences or the things of this world. And what is worse, men who are thus Ignorant are unable to perceive their own ignorance and so do not seek a remedy.
- It's worth noting that even mathematicians can sometimes feel daunted at really complicated math (not to be confused with Complex Mathematics, which is a typical University Freshman topic). This is the reason why so many supposedly "unsolvable" math problems end up solved years, decades, or even centuries after. Sometimes the mathematicians attempting to solve it before either Rage Quit, got sidetracked by other work, got too sickly or old, and so on to continue through to the solution, a process which can sometimes literally take the entire mathematician's lifetime.
- A large part of this trope's prevalence in Real Life is due to the way in which math is taught in school. Math isn't actually boring, but you'd be hard-pressed to find anything engaging about it when your classes do the mathematical equivalent of teaching you English by going over individual letters, words, and grammatical constructs over and over again for years on end, occasionally reading and writing actual sentences. Sentences which are so obviously contrived to force you to recognize and apply the subject of today's lecture that they more closely resemble Dick and Jane or "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" than anything an actual human being would say. Never once do you read an actual book, so you can see what the point of all this is. On top of that, mathematical books will often spit out a variation of the formula being taught that hasn't been explained at all, and expect the student to solve it without guidance from the teacher. One professor explained the negative binomial distribution using a story problem that sounded like the setup for H. C. Andersen's "The Little Match Girl".
- This trope might be justified due to pragmatism and a lack of practice most people have at complicated math. In everyday life you really only use adding/subtracting and multiplying/dividing on a regular basis, so you soon become very practised at simple arithmetic early on, but not higher maths such as algebra, unless you work in a profession such as engineering which requires the ability of complicated math. This results in adults and teenagers using the A Degree in Useless defence to justify their hatred of mathematics. They may have done well in mathematics at school but have forgotten most of it, or are out of practice and slow at it.
That makes sense, until you stop and actually count the school subjects you used recently. As a regular Joe, when was the last time you used World History? Chemistry? Played the recorder? Made pottery? For most people, virtually never. The fact that many people say this about mathematics, but exclusively about mathematics (and also physics) even though one can theoretically say that about most, if not all school subjects, is illuminating.
- In England you pick four or five (usually four) A Levels to study at 16, as opposed to maths being compulsory in some form until age 18 as in America. As a result 90% of kids take no more maths qualifications and leave education with a standard of maths that is (by international standards) simply woeful. A Level Maths is accepted as equivalent to AP credit at many American universities. An A Level maths student is therefore a 16 year old taking college level courses in calculus and physics. GCSE Maths (school leaving exams), however, top out at Pythagoras, simple quadratic equations and equation of a line.
- In the US, the math:no-math split is simply pushed back a few years. The math portion of the general GRE (the exam taken by all applicants to graduate school, regardless of field) is objectively easier than the math portion of the SAT (taken by college applicants in their last year of high school), because it is assumed that students have had no mathematics in the last four years.
- Averted in Ancient Greece, where the study of mathematics could greatly increase your status and lead to lucrative teaching careers. Pythagoras even formed a cult, the Pythagorean Brotherhood, that revolved around the most recent math breakthroughs. According to legend, one acolyte discovered irrational numbers and this disturbed Pythagoras so much that he ordered him to be drowned and the secret to be forgotten forever. Archimedes is said to have been slain during the invasion of Syracuse by the Romans. He was so focused on drawing geometrical figures in the sand that when a legionary arrived and interrupted him, he ignored him so rudely that the soldier struck him down with his sword.
- Stephen Hawking was advised by his editor that every equation in a book cuts the sales in half, so he included only one in A Brief History Of Time.
- A popular mathematicians quote is, "Mathematics is hard. If it isn't hard, you're not progressing fast enough."
- This is true of sufferers of the learning disability dyscalculia, which can easily be described as "dyslexia with numbers."
- In some cases, it comes off as almost You Cannot Grasp the True Form - the way individuals find the material easy to comprehend comes off as almost entirely alien or else to someone who knows it a different way.
- One good example is the classic "Two trains" problem (in which two trains traveling at different speeds go in different directions and the problem asks when they meet). There are two ways to solve it - either play with the simple physics formula (Distance equals Rate or speed multiplied by time) so that you instead solve for the time or the rate; or you use another formula in which you take the two speeds of the train, have them be multiplied by x, then solve for x by adding the speed together and then dividing it from the distance between the two points. And yet another (that's less popular, especially amongst math teachers) is to brute force it and count how far they travel in an hour, add it up until the distances equal the total distance given in the problem then see where they are close or to say "They meet when the first train is x miles from point A and the second train isy miles from Point b." As anyone who had taken math can tell you... when a problem has two or more ways to solve it, some people get marked off for "not doing it right" even though it makes sense to them and they got the right answer... of course this causes them to hate math.
- This is actually Played for Laughs in a chapter of Wayside School. One kid, Joe, cannot count, so Mrs. Jewls tries to teach him to count. However, every time he counts in a radically incorrect order, but finishes off with the right number anyway, prompting him to say, for example, "there are four potatoes" and Mrs. Jewls says "No, there are four!"
- One good example is the classic "Two trains" problem (in which two trains traveling at different speeds go in different directions and the problem asks when they meet). There are two ways to solve it - either play with the simple physics formula (Distance equals Rate or speed multiplied by time) so that you instead solve for the time or the rate; or you use another formula in which you take the two speeds of the train, have them be multiplied by x, then solve for x by adding the speed together and then dividing it from the distance between the two points. And yet another (that's less popular, especially amongst math teachers) is to brute force it and count how far they travel in an hour, add it up until the distances equal the total distance given in the problem then see where they are close or to say "They meet when the first train is x miles from point A and the second train isy miles from Point b." As anyone who had taken math can tell you... when a problem has two or more ways to solve it, some people get marked off for "not doing it right" even though it makes sense to them and they got the right answer... of course this causes them to hate math.
- There's also a joke among snipers that a lot of people join sniper school because how awesome being a Cold Sniper seems... then drop out when they find out the sheer complexity of the math involved.
- Because of changes in math over time, including increasingly fancy calculators, math is a subject that parents can find difficult to help their children with.
- In popular culture, people who prefer the arts to math and science are sometimes called "right-brained." People who prefer the reverse are "left-brained." In reality, lateralization of brain functions can vary depending on your native language, your gender, which hand is your dominant hand, etc. Anyone who uses their alleged hemispheric dominance as an excuse for being bad at math (or art, or cartography, etc.) probably has no idea what they're talking about. Aside from people with learning disabilities like dyscalculia, pretty much anyone can learn how to do math, even if they find it boring, just like how anyone can learn to draw or play an instrument with enough practice.
- Even if you have dyscalculia (which isn't all that uncommon), it is possible to learn math, however it will be harder and probably take longer than someone who doesn't have the disability. A good teacher helps.
- The existence of this trope is why almost any writer that focuses on science fiction will get some form of mathematics wrong in one way or another due to their inexperience and/or laziness of implementing mathematical logic. And it's not just limited to Sci-Fi writers; any author from any genre may also suffer from these two tropes if given a chance to attempt putting some form of math in their works.
- MATHCOUNTS (basically the math equivalent of the National Spelling Bee) is aimed at averting this through competition.
- Isaac Asimov once wrote in an editorial that the reason so many women are becoming lawyers— as opposed to doctors, engineers and so on— is that it is the only high-powered profession that requires no mathematics. He was promptly flooded with letters from irate lawyers claiming that they do, too, have to do math: they have to calculate billable hours, and figure taxes, and .... Asimov replied, in effect, "I rest my case". It is very common for people in all walks of life to equate mathematics with arithmetic.
- Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant once said, "It's hard to rally around a math class."
- Averted in Ancient China, Confucianism (which is practiced by all the intellectuals) demands all practitioners to excel in the six arts. The six arts are: rites (including things like ceremony, etiquette and diplomacy), music, archery, chariot riding (along with archery, representing strength of arms), calligraphy and finally mathematics.
- An economist was mistaken for a terrorist for the terribly suspicious crime of...doing math.
- Capitalist Mathematics: Venezuelan politician Jorge Rodríguez, and his explanation of how the capitalist system forces people to do eight working hours a day, five days a week... which somehow equals to 800 working hours a month. ^{note }