I've met people who say they did very well in algebra but were terrible at geometry in high school and some people who say they did very well in geometry but were terrible at algebra in high school.

I'm curious if people who do well in geometry are right-brained thinkers while people who do well in algebra are left-brained thinkers? Why is there a difference in ability, when algebra and geometry are just branches of the same subject, mathematics?

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    $\begingroup$ Anecdotal evidence doesn't control for factors like having a good teacher for geometry and a bad one for algebra, so I don't think we can guess here - there are just too many possible explanations. However, see this related question: Does motivation and interest correlate highly with IQ and can someone be smart but perform poorly in a particular field? PS: The left-brain/right-brain split is a myth, so we can at least rule that out as an explanation. $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Sep 21, 2015 at 23:07
  • $\begingroup$ @ArnonWeinberg - but its quite interesting actually. For example, My English is pretty OK, but my German and French are horrible. My English teachers were nicer yes :) But at least one of my French teachers was a lovely person too. I really think there is more going on than random environmental factors. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Sep 21, 2015 at 23:41
  • $\begingroup$ I was one of those, who was bad at Algebra but amazing at Geometry. I think in my case it was due to my teacher; my Algebra teacher was a drunk crazy lady in love with Common Core while my Geo teacher has to be my best teacher I've ever had, exciting and funny but patient and focused. $\endgroup$ May 7, 2017 at 19:03

2 Answers 2


In short, algebra and geometry are different type of cognitive abilities. Geometry is more spatial and algebra more verbal-logic.

Kestenbaum, C., Williams, T. D., Handbook of Clinical Assessment of Children and Adolescents, NYU Press, 1988.


I'm one of those people who was good at Geometry, but bad at Algebra. Eventually I caught up and was good at both. The question why did bother me for a long time, and it's good to see that I'm not alone.

It seems to me that middle and high school algebra is mostly about memorization. Typical questions have only one solution. You have to remember how to expand polynominals, and if you are faced with an equation and don't a specific rule, you are going to fail:

What is the remainder when f(x) = (x - 2)54 is divided by x - 1?

In terms of Geometry, not only is it more visual, but there are multiple ways to arrive at a solution. Multiple rules can be applied in different order to arrive at a solution. It can take longer, be less effective, but a solution can be found.

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