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"Math class is tough!"—Teen Talk Barbie puts it succinctly.
Algebra! Calculus! Geometry! Arithmetic! Unspeakable words and numbers guaranteed to strike fear, anxiety, paranoia, madness, and paralysis into the hearts of everyone. Mathematics, especially the more advanced courses, easily appears to be terrifying, largely theoretical, mindscrewy, or just downright mind-rapingly eldritch. Most people claim to be bad at it, even though some of them are good at math, they just fear it. If anybody is ever going to skip a class, it'll be math (or gym, although that one's pretty much simply and entirely down to the Jerk Jocks, Sadist Teacher, or the students just being Brilliant but Lazy).
Irrational and sometimes even complex and transcendental fear of the theorem of Pythagoras is inevitable.
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 maths-needing careers, leaving the next generation of writers to be drawn from the set of people who Cannot Do Math.
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.
Anime and Manga
- 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. Similarly, Minamo is shown to be less than proficient in mathematics.
- 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 As, 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 subpar grades in mathematics, although her language grades are not much better.
Card Games
- The Star Wars Customizable Card Game gives us Brainiac.^{[1]} 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.
Comics
- The Bash Street Kid in The Beano who absolutely hates math. This trope is averted with Cuthbert though who absolutely loves doing hard sums.
Film
- 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 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.
Literature
- 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.
- Bella in Twilight hates math; it's her worst subject.
- In The Princess Diaries, Mia hates -- and doesn't understand -- math, be it precalculus 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 math on Mondays.
- Anne of Green Gables hates Geometry. Hates, hates, hates Geometry, even though she had to teach it.
- There exists a book called I Hate Mathematics! written specifically to deal with the Real Life examples.
- The protagonist of The Confusions of Young Torless is actually quite intrigued by some mathematical concepts but finds his actual math teacher drab and disappointing.
- 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 mats 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 Babysitters Club series, 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.
Live Action TV
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 worshiped 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 and "Doesn't anyone do recreational maths any more?"
- 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.
Music
- The Jimmy Buffett song "Math Suks".
Geometry and trigonometry
And if that don't tax your brain
There are numbers to big to be named
Numerical precision is a science with a mission
And I think its' gonna drive me insane
- 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..."
Newspaper Comics
- 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!
- 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.
- The Far Side once showed us "Hell's Library", filled with nothing but books full of story problems.
Toys
- One talking Barbie doll would say, "Math class is hard!" The phrase was later removed due to controversy: it seems that the Moral Guardians did not want to encourage the stereotype that girls suck at math.
Video Games
- In Exile/Avernum 2, 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
- His ultimate attack, a level i Flare, can hit anything^{[2]}. 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.
- In Punch-Out!! Wii, Title Defense Great Tiger's Blinking Jewel Combo and Magic Rush greatly depends on how many punches you've thrown, along with division and prime numbers. If you don't know your math, you aren't going to get your precious OHKO. Unless you don't suck at the first Magic Rush.
- 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).
- Or you can lower the frustration by wearing armor that protects you from one effect and fighting at a level that protects you from all the others -- but that's math again!
- 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, 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 Marys: Your hatred of math class sets you off on your adventure.
Webcomics
- 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.
Web Original
- 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.
- You're forgetting Carmilla who created a theory of mutant powers based on post-doctorate level mathematics.
- 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.
Western Animation
- 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.)
- 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 Duck in Mathemagic 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 he can use it to shoot pool.
- 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.
Real Life
- In England you pick four or five A Levels to study at 16 and unfortunately there is a lot of crap about being an arts person or a maths person. The best thing to do is take at least one science/maths subject and one arts subject because if you can excel at both universities will be impressed.
- People who prefer the arts to math and science are 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.
- 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."
- 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.
Notes
- ↑ His canon name is Pons Lomboc, but who cares?
- ↑ Level Flare attacks, in Final Fantasy, hit all targets whose level can be divided by their number. As i is the square root of -1, and when squared again, is 1, any number can be divided by it