Thursday, 4 February 2010

Do the Math? I'd rather do the Funky Chicken (naked) in any well-known UK shopping centre (but don't hold me to it)

I loved my twelve times table square.  When I had it right there -  in front of me and the teacher pointed and said "six sevens!".  I could walk a path (two paths, actually) to praise.  And I arrived at the correct square... hang on a minute (seriously, where's that damn calculator when you need it?) ahem - 42.  Of course! 42!  I knew that - had I been hypnotised and regressed to that exact day at school when I had my twelve-square out - I mean.
You see I'm not a black and white person.  For me,  1+1=2 has been done to death.  We all know it.  Can we not just move on now and find something else out? A cure for cancer perhaps or maybe just read a new book which has words that are put in a different order to make someone happy.   Whoever invented Mathematics as a lesson that should be learned, was a sadist.  And it's something that apparently we ALL need to know and pass down to our children and their children ad nauseum.  There's probably even a mathematical term for this which I'd share with you if I was bothered enough to look it up.
Anyone else remember Logarithms?  What were THEY all about? And hands up who's had cause to panic  in the face of an everyday-life-conundrum and thought "shit - if only I had my Slide-Rule/Logarithms book with me right now...the world could be saved/the puppy wouldn't die/global warming would be a thing of the past" No.  me neither.
Maths homework for me meant sitting huddled over a very damp exercise book (tears), rubber in hand, holes in the pages through so much erasing, a little pile of pencil shavings as a distraction technique (from sharpening my wrists mostly) and my Mother breathing over my shoulder, huffing and sighing like she'd given birth to Forrest Gump's dumber sister.
My mum worked in Accounts.  She could add up a string of thirteen numbers in her head and still carry on knitting and not break out in a sweat.  Me?  I only had to glance at a sum and I'd want to pee my pants and hide in the girls toilets til it was all over (embarrassing at the age of thirty-four).
I just didn't get it.   It didn't have shape, or colour, or sound or smell or rhyme.  And for the life of me I didn't get why you could sometimes 'borrow' some from one number and then 'carry' some more somewhere else to arrive at the 'right answer'.  That's what bothered me.  There was only the RIGHT answer.  No debating, no 'possibles', no uncertainty or discussion allowed - right or wrong.  No in between with Maths.  BUT this is what I like.  I like the in-between stuff, the grey areas, the debateable, the uncertainties, the variations and connotations - I don't like worlds that are black and white with no shades in between.
Which doesn't cut much mustard with any Maths Teacher I know.
So it comes as a bit of a shock to find that The Girl is in the Higher set for her GCSE Maths.  Er- pardon me? When did this happen?  Currently she's skipping gaily through a field of Simultaneous Equations.  The last time we sat down and did sums together we were both nearly in tears and at each other's throats - I ended up writing a letter to her teacher in the end telling him that although 'we have both tried, we are sorry to say that we do not understand the question'. Which was the truth.  And teachers admire the truth, don't they?
And I like to think that my outright honesty with the whole 'not understanding' thing has helped forged her path toward mathematical genius - no, I do.  For, since that day she has always raised her hand when she hasn't understood the question, or else waited until lesson-end and asked if she could be helped and this - contrary to personal belief that it will result in being labelled 'slow-to-grasp' - actually works.  She's proof of this.
Although I do have a confession to make.  And this makes me very proud indeed.  I once sat up til the wee smalls on the BBC Bitesize site, teaching myself Algebra for when the Girl and I had a tough old time of it way back when.  And the thrill and pulse of sheer victory I felt when she returned with a monumental 12/15 for that night's homework, is something I will always remember.
It's never too late.
If you want to do something bad enough - especially if it's for someone you'll do anything for.
Delight equals Determination over Despair.

4 comments:

Michele said...

I hated maths as well. Geometry, Trig and calculus gave me a nervous tic. My father was a whiz (in fact he tutors the grandchildren now) but I was hopeless. My geometry teacher said my final was so bad that he felt sorry for me and gave me points because I spelled my name right. To this day, I still have no idea how to do a proof or why we even half to.

Debs Riccio said...

LOL Michele - 'tis a curse of the artistic creative types I think! And what the heck is a proof anyway? (no, seriously)

Jacqueline Christodoulou said...

Aw Debs I love maths! LOL!
Actually I do, I'm really sad, I was the swotty girl sat at the back withe the textbook permenantly open :-( but I totally agree about the 'proof' 'evidence' or 'truth' thing.

After all maths is only one way of looking at thing's isn't it? Brill your daughter is good at it though!

Debs Riccio said...

Jacqui - isn't it something to do with the right and left hand sides of our brain? Mine just doesn't even want to venture over to the scientific side - preferring to lollop about in a a world of creative stuff. You're lucky - your brain will do both - you are destined for great things, my friend!