# Working with numbers and variables

#### schroedingercat

##### New member
How is it possible that the more numbers in an equation, the worse I become at it, where the more variables there are, the easier it is and the faster I can do it?

Is there possibly a universal law regarding this, or am I alone in suffering this condition?

I love math, but as it turns out, I am absolutely abysmal at it!

Came here to write down a problem and ask why my solution was wrong, turns out, I had written down the wrong number by the order of several hundred digits!

Oh and hello, I am new to the forums.

#### Jameson

Staff member
Hi schroedingercat,

Welcome to MHB!

I've moved your thread to our Chat Room since this isn't an actual math problem.

Hmm, I've never thought about this idea of working with variables versus working with numbers. Depending on the topic you are studying, sometimes the numbers you have to use are always ugly and impossible to remember. Luckily for these problems usually we can use computers to store data and don't have to worry about incorrectly copying something.

What kinds of problems do you find it easier to work with variables? I agree that variables can be much nicer to work with in many situations.

#### schroedingercat

##### New member
Hi schroedingercat,

Welcome to MHB!

I've moved your thread to our Chat Room since this isn't an actual math problem.

Hmm, I've never thought about this idea of working with variables versus working with numbers. Depending on the topic you are studying, sometimes the numbers you have to use are always ugly and impossible to remember. Luckily for these problems usually we can use computers to store data and don't have to worry about incorrectly copying something.

What kinds of problems do you find it easier to work with variables? I agree that variables can be much nicer to work with in many situations.
I had originally typed the post out in the forum of an Algebra problem I was having trouble with, until I realized I had written down the data wrong, which transformed my post into a rant about my stupid brain.

In answer to your question, "which ones?" ... Pretty much all of them!

For instance, any time I see an exponent, my brain tries to multiply the number by the exponent. If it is a letter, it never tries such shenanigans. I can't tell you how many times I have seen 52 and my brain goes "oh! oh! It's 10! High five!!" and I'm like.. "OMG brain.. you don't have any fingers. Duh!" and I obediently write down 10 and get a wrong answer.

But if I see xy my brain just sits back and lets me work the problem where x is multiplied by itself y times without being "helpful" and supplying me with distracting nonsense. Unless I have a song stuck in my head or something.

#### Jameson

I remember in my high school days there were some rules that also didn't seem to stick. For example, I couldn't remember if $(a^2)^3$ was $a^5$ or $a^6$ so I would test out both methods with my calculator to choose the correct rule. Only after using these rules over and over again did I start to develop some kind of intuition about them. That's something I don't know if many young students think about, but often our intuition about a new topic is bad at first but can be developed.