Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Math is hard

I made an idiot of myself on the internet yesterday. Okay, it's not like it's the first time someone has been an idiot on the internet and it certainly won't be the last, but I claimed something was basic math without actually paying attention to the, um, basic math. Homer said it best: Doh.

Math has always been really hard for me. I say that not in a whiney "Math is hard." voice, but in a "Damn, I just don't GET it." tone. I flunked geometry the first time and both algebra and chemistry found me totally flustered. It's like I'm the math equivelant of color blind. I opted out of the sciences early on, even though I'm fascinated with the natural world, because I couldn't do the math.

For this sorry state of affairs I blame two people. First on the list: my 7th grade geometry teacher. This pale woman with fuzzy blonde hair would stand in front of the classroom openly yawning during her geometry lectures. Under the yellowish glow of the flourescents, she failed to enlighten me one bit about the mysteries of Pythagoras or how to find a hypontenous. Meanwhile, I dozed open-eyed at my desk, wondering whether my teacher had turned transparent, so seemingly absent was she. And this was before the pot-smoking days.

The other person I blame is, naturally, my dad. My dad was a math teacher for much of his life before he became a technical professional, and lately, he's been teaching math again. I think, in retrospect, it must have driven him completely wild that I could not for the life of me get what "x" was. Nor did I care. Numbers, which were his bread and butter, totally bored me. When he tried to tutor me through algebra, it was cold war for the entire term.

I don't think I need therapy to get over my math trauma, after all, I'm a fairly highly functioning adult. (Okay, I get that there's such a thing as denial.) I do, sometimes wish I saw the pattern, though, that I cared what "x" is, that I could make my brain pay attention to the most simple of math problems. I wouldn't mind making myself out to be just slightly less of an idiot than every other idiot on the Web. If you're an idiot on the internet once, you're an idiot forever. It's simple math.

7 comments:

Sinical said...

I can't say that math has ever been a trouble subject for me, but I did have some bad teachers in highschool. Most notably the Calculous teacher whose voice rivaled the excitement of Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller's Day Off (anyone, anyone?). 5 minutes with the guy and my head and the desk had become permanently fused together. Hey JB, what the hell was that teacher's name?

Glad to see that your math error was on the internet and not in person. Internet chastising is not nearly as severe as face-to-face.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lillian said...

oops, that was me up there. Anonymous...

Jason B said...

Doctor Saunders. His hair would always be lopsided, I guess from sleeping on it and not showering in the morning. The night before the final, he threw a pool party and required that all the students show. Everyone crammed TWO nights before the exam.

I also remember him closing the shades, and putting up this video projection of a Mandelbrot fractal, zooming in slowly into one section until the image repeated itself, with Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" playing on a boombox in the background. Really. This was AFTER the pot smoking days (we had several Robotussin addicts in the class by that point).

I also developed my first mathematical theorem in that class. The Bennett "sphere of intelligence" theorem. He would explain a complex derivative rule (don't even ask me to recall the basic definition of a derivative - it's long gone). I would then be able to explain it back to him and to anyone else close by, if he was in five feet. As he slowly walked away, questions and doubts would slowly enter my head. By the time he was back at the front of the class, I would be lost.

Pam, I had a similar business hatred, based on some twisted Oedipal thing. Dad started out as an accountant and I swore off money as early as I can remember. Spend it, don't spend it, just ignore it altogether. I'm going back now and relearning, but it's painfully slow, and not much more interesting than it was then. Kind of like how they would discuss the level of ease of learning a 2nd language when you're two than when you're forty.

Sinical said...

In my world, JB, the sphere of intelligence was never created. There was just this giant all-encompassing sphere of unintelligence.

Amy Sue said...

I'm with Pam. Math is a BITCH. It is such a hinderance for me as an adult because I realize that those skills really WOULD come in handy now...at least some of them. Even though I hated it, I never asked WHY I had to take the classes-I knew that conquering the math courses would be another stepping stone towards being an analytical adult. So when I finished college in South Carolina I was in grave danger of being a very useless human being. The walk across the stage on the lawn at Presbyterian College was not the actual end of my college education. A full 3.5 years later, I FINALLY finished the 1)catchup math class I needed to take to begin 2)College algebra and 3)Pre-Calculus. Never knock the community college system again. It is a godsend. Yes, my fiancee Stephen and future brother-in-law Jason finished Pre-Calculus in Jr. High; but I have no shame. After years of hating myself for lacking the brain for math, I learned (from my wonderful mother and from research and publications) that math comprehension is developmental-especially in girls. So that's my excuse-I wasn't fully developed. Three A's later, I oficially received a degree in Visual Art.

Pam said...

The "sphere of intelligence" theory made me laugh out loud. Thank you.