Mathematics. The subject everybody loves to hate. You can only ignore it for so long though, because soon enough, it will raise its ugly head. Paying for the groceries, splitting restaurant bills and helping kids with their homework are all things that you'll have to do at some point. Will you be ready?
As I mentioned yesterday, it was a request from a reader who had problems with math that sparked off this series. Math is a particularly nasty problem area. You can hide your lack of ability pretty easily, and you don't have to feel to bad about it, because most people agree with you. Math sucks! At some point though, you'll have to tackle it. It will happen some day when you are least expecting it, when there's no one around to ask for help, and no calculator for miles. Don't get caught out. Start working on those skills now!
As with most things in life, it's best to start with the basics - addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Grey Olltwit's Times Tables is a sweet British-made program that will take you from the beginning right to the very end. It tests you along the way and you even get a certificate of achievement when you complete it. Why the program has an elderly man standing around in his Union Jack boxer shorts is a bit of a mystery, but at least it will take your mind off the multiplication.
Math Ninja is a bit cheesy, but that doesn't mean it won't help you learn. It covers all the basics - addition, subtraction, multiplication and division - and lets you play at 8 different levels. The program's pearls of ninja wisdom will keep you motivated, and by the time you are able for level 8's calculations, you'll have number skills to be proud of.
Math-A-Maze is definitely one to try AFTER you have revised the basics. It isn't crazy difficult, but does require concentration and logical thinking. You are given a maze of numbers and mathematical signs and a goal. You then have to arrow key through the maze so that by the time you get to the other side, the number you are left with equals your goal. For a small program, there are actually a lot of options and, best of all, it comes with plenty of tips and solutions.
If you have a received a traditional education in math, you'll be able to start on these tools immediately. You might be a bit rusty, but things will start to come back to you and before you know it, you'll be whizzing through Math-A-Maze on the most difficult setting. If you have actually missed some of your education, however, you'll need extra help before you can start to practice. There are plenty of online resources for this (the BBC is always a good place to start), while almost every local government in the "developed" world will have free and easily-accessed services. Contact your local library or town/area authorities for more information, or search online.
Don't get too down though, there's some pretty stuff about math too - I promise! Believe it or not, the beautiful pattern above is actually the visual representation of a really complex math concept - fractals. Don't worry about the science behind it - just stick it up as your wallpaper and look to it for inspiration when those times tables are getting you down.
Part 1: Introduction
Part 3: Reading