I've seen the quote below attributed to Einstein in several places

Do not worry about your difficulties in mathematics, I assure you that mine are greater.

Even on sites where several other Einstein quotes are sourced (for example here) this quote is not given a source.

It seems like it is a genuine Einstein quote, but I would like to know about the broader context for the quote. I like it because I've always interpreted it to mean something like "to learn math is to struggle with math." The addressee was probably struggling with algebra or calculus while Einstein was probably struggling with differential geometry (since he was famously not as good at it as, for example, Hilbert). But the point is that no one is so smart that every mathematical topic comes easily. That said, I have no idea if this was the spirit of the quote since I have no source for it.

Is there a known source for this quote, or is it just something Einstein is known to have said at some point?

  • 12
    Note that differential geometry is needed to even formulate general relativity and was only created while Einstein was working on it. So he essentially needed cutting edge math research just to write down what he wanted to express about physics.
    – quarague
    Aug 30, 2023 at 7:50
  • Maybe the difference is between what he said and what he meant: Maybe it was having trouble to formulate his thoughts in the notation of mathematics.
    – U. Windl
    Aug 30, 2023 at 7:59
  • 1
    You have to understand there is context in this things. He was writing to a student who was struggling in mathematics and trying to be nice.
    – Tom
    Aug 31, 2023 at 11:39
  • 2
    I think he was trying to put things into perspective for her. Even someone as accomplished as he was struggled with things, so don't be discouraged.
    – Barmar
    Aug 31, 2023 at 15:24
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    At the time Riemannian geometry was cutting edge so learning it was not straightforward (similar to a string theorist now having to learn Calabi-Yaus and monstrous moonshine).
    – Tom
    Sep 1, 2023 at 10:33

1 Answer 1


According to Albert Einstein, the Human Side:

Einstein's fame endured, and brought an extraordinary assortment of mail. For example, a student in Washington, D.C., wrote to him on 3 January 1943 mentioning among other things that she was a little below average in mathematics and had to work at it harder than most of her friends. Replying in English from Princeton on 7 January 1943, Einstein wrote in part as follows:

Do not worry about your difficulties in mathematics; I can assure you that mine are still greater.

The full exchange can be found in the book Albert Einstein's Letters to and from Children.

  • 16
    Thank you. This context actually suits my purposes even better than what I had imagined. Aug 29, 2023 at 21:53

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