I know there are probably millions of people out there who say "oh I hate math" and "I can never be good at math" or "numbers scare me", etc etc. I was like that when I was little, and it really impacted my life. It was especially hard for me when I was growing up because my grandpa was a mathematician, my dad was an engineer, basically... I seemed to be the only person in the family who didn't "get" math. Suffice it to say, I neglected math when I was younger (aka in elementary and middle school), and I gradually developed this attitude that I was just plain not good at math, and it carried over into high school.
Throughout my earlier life, I never got a grade higher than C in a math class ever. I didn't pass Algebra 2 the first time I took it in 10th grade (re-took it in the summer and got a C), and I essentially never took trig in high school either. I just showed up to class. The teacher gave me a D (so I could have high school credit for it) just because I wrote her a bullshit letter about the stuff going on in my life and how I wasn't able to study because of it. I never really thought too much of it, I just always assumed that I was simply not good at math.
I quickly realized however that it wasn't some fundamental issue with numbers, but just that all those years ago as a kid not learning the basics of math affected me. Math is really a subject that continually builds on itself moreso than any other subject (in my opinion). Meaning, the random stuff you learn as a kid like multiplication and division actually become important (being able to recognize patterns and do mental math)... and then algebra is basically the basis for the rest of math (at least up until Calc 2... I don't know anything about beyond that). The fact that I never learned that stuff just killed the rest of math for me.
It wasn't until senior year in high school that I realized this problem and cared enough to work to try and fix it. I thank my time on Academic Decathlon for that. Math was one of the 10 subjects, and I would always score 300's on it... math killed my city score, and so I told myself that by state I would make sure I got better at math. That got me thinking a lot about math, and I started working on it for about 1.5 hours every day. This really was the starting point for my interest in math, I began to see it as a challenge and obstacle that I wanted to overcome. In the 5 weeks between city and state, I was able to raise my math score by 250 points (from ~300 at city to ~550 at state).
In my year at community college I worked on math more, I started practicing mental math a lot (for example, calculating my gas mileage and how long it would take me to get home from a particular place in my head)... and I re-took Algebra 2 there and got a B, which was my highest grade in math to date. When I got accepted into UCSD, and found out that my college was Revelle, I was actually excited. As anyone who goes to UCSD knows, Revelle has intense GE requirements, and they require students to take 3 quarters of calculus (or 2 semesters in a semester system... aka Calc 1 and 2). So while most people see "Revelle" and think "ah shit I have to take math but I'm a non math/science major" I was thinking "ya! I get to take more math".
So I took trig for the first time in my life, and was doing pretty poorly, I was getting C's on all my tests and had a D homework average (that was honestly the most brutal math class I have ever taken). Anyways, I pretty much needed to ace the final to get a decent grade and I studied like a beast and ended up with a B+ in the class, my highest grade in math.
Next it was on to Calc 1. I actually had a lot of fun in that class, because I learned a few basics of calc for Academic Decathlon (like basic derivatives and limits, which I thought were really interesting at the time). Anyways I worked really really hard, and I was in another position where acing the final might be able to get me a solid grade, and I ended up with an A-... which was (maybe this is a sad thing) one of the happiest moments of my life. To go from barely knowing algebra to getting an A- in calc two years later was one of my biggest achievements (in my mind at least).
So now I sit here, and my Calc 2 final is tomorrow... after this math is technically over for me. I have a mid B, and I can possibly get an A in the class if I do well enough tomorrow... but I'm not really studying. I felt like math clicked with me, and I'm not scrambling for the grade like I did in Trig and Calc 1... I'm at peace with myself, and I'm actually feeling pretty confident.
Anyways I just feel like sharing this journey, because at least for me it's awesome to see. To think about myself a few years ago not knowing how to do any math to today getting ready to take my Calc 2 and feeling confident that I'll do well is like O__________________O for me. I kinda wish I could major in math now... I'm really going to miss math.