I am an adult returning to college to study for a maths A-level here in London (UK). I didn't take it when I was young because I couldn't.
I study maths because I need it. As an amateur programmer I often stumble upon maths problems and being able to solve these problems is often essential to the programs I try to write.
Parents, the government and educators are trying to motivate students to study maths by saying it opens up more career paths than any other subject. They say everything in maths is self-evident and can be proved. Some say maths is an art. While this may motivate some to take up maths, the teaching does not live up to the arousal.
Even if some take it up, they lose motivation soon after. This is because they cannot see how maths could be useful in real life. If maths really is all around us, why are they not being shown?
Most people say maths is boring or difficult. I don't think it is. People fail at maths because the methods of education aren't effective. When I say people fail at maths I mean they grow up forgetting what they were taught and being unable to use maths when they really need it. They may have passed the exam with good marks, but they don't really know maths.
This happens because teenagers are being told to memorise formulae and methods by rote, i.e. through repetition and without understanding how or why the methods work. This will certainly help them pass the exam but the formulae won't stay in memory for ever. It also leaves them with uncertainty and a displeasure for maths. Learning maths is about understanding not memorising and if they really knew maths, the marks would look after themselves anyway.
The textbooks being used today contain more exercises than explanations. They are getting more colourful and now include CD-ROMs, but explanations are becoming more and more brief. If maths is self- evident, where are the proofs?
Ask a teacher "why?" the answer is "it's just the way it is, don't worry about it, just memorise it and you'll pass". When they explain something, they don't explain it in a logical or clear way. I'm not saying all teachers are bad but the ones I've come across are like this. It takes imagination, good English and preparation to give a good lesson. It also takes consideration for what the student doesn't know, and willingness to explain the basics.