From Slashdot comments:
Make it relevant.
But remember kids, never mix calculus and alcohol. Don’t drink and derive! 🙂
I don’t have a great answer for your question. However, for me the key to learning math was to stop being intimidated by it….Start reading the simple stuff and if it’s confusing, don’t be afraid to move backwards and get even simpler. We all forget that stuff now and then.
For the basic mathematics that the original post is inquiring about, the concepts are reasonably simple and straightforward. What they require, however, is what often appears to be mind-numbing repetition. It’s work….Unless he’s the sort of person who developed phenomenal self-discipline later in life, however, the best bet is to get to a classroom…But basic mathematics requires a lot of rote work. It can be a joy to know that you’ve learned everything that was used to get mankind to the moon, a tremendous joy in fact, but it takes work.
Make sure to get applications for the math explained to you. At the level you are talking about, I think essentially everything has a real world application. Make sure this is taught to you. It can really help your understanding to get some real world examples.
First off, understand what exactly it is you are trying to do. You are trying to build abstract thought paths in your brain. This is hard to do. Many of the math problems you were presented with in high school were an attempt to get you to make the leap from specific application of concepts in lots of different ways to the abstract concept itself….Accurate quadratic thinking is much much harder than linear thinking. When you see a line, you know it’s a line, but when you see a curve, it might be quadratic, cubic, exponential, logarithmic, or any of a host of variations.
In order to learn it on your own, you want to enhance your curiousity at any chance you get. If you get the feeling that you’re forcing yourself through it, you might not continue. To maximize curiousity, i suggest you find several math books….Sometimes you’ll find something that requires previous concepts that you don’t yet have. This is fine, because now you can go look up those concepts with a sense of purpose. This will help you to your larger goal of the more interesting thing that you flipped to in the book.
If you are going to teach yourself, I highly recommend firstly finding out how you learn. Knowing that you learn better by reading, or by hearing, or by drawing, modelling or however can save you a lot of time later on.
To regain my mastery of mathematics, I decided to take a single math problem very seriously. I figured that I would try to understand the solution by grounding all ideas down to postulates.
The guy who made the last comment ended up having an elaborate blog Fermat’s Last Theorem (linked to in my mathematics section).