Why We Hate Math

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Math is logical and our brains are not. Our brains make leaps while math takes a steady and careful path to its destination. It follows rules and its paths are well chartered. Our minds not so much.

For the record, I don’t hate math. I love it. I became a history major at a point in my life where the emotional side of my life wasn’t adding up. The rules of math can not be applied to the heart. My mind didn’t know to reconcile with the focus need for calculation when it was exploding exponentially with the chaos causes with loss, heart break and uncertainty.

Back in the day (which if you ask my students is anytime between when man discovered first fire to the day their parents were married), math was been a subject which vexed mankind. It remains so to this day.

In other words, math is hard.

We seek meaning and understanding, but you can’t apply formulas to your emotions. The heart resists all such logic.

Take my first college boyfriend (no, we aren’t going back to my first boyfriend, cause that jerk pour a coke on my mom’s white jacket that I had borrowed for some now forgotten offense) I loved him and he loved me. Or at least, we loved the idea of each other. But when it came down to it, the drama that flowed in both our lives was too much. The love equaling love didn’t work out. There were too many unseen variables.

Math has rules and once you understand those rules, problems become solutions that you can check. The heart isn’t such an easy equation to solve. The variables are too numerous for us to calculate any answer consistently and the rules seem to change at Cupid’s whim.

Math is really easy when compared to the calculations of the heart. Just follow math’s rules and you are set.

Not so in love or grammar. But that is another story.

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Whether it is a cold or my sinuses, my body has been sending very direct messages. You are sick. You need to rest. Why aren’t you resting? Sleep, you need sleep.   Oh and by the way, until you give me what I want food will lose all favor. 

And it did. Well mostly, I just didn’t want to eat the veggies. Freshly steamed veggies. Warm and crispy veggies that I normally devout just lingered there while I went for second and third helpings of mashed potatoes. I was really tempted to go get a milkshake, blowing all the lovely work I have done in the past week with my diet.

My body wants sleep and rest. Not to be up and at work. It wants more than a day off. It wants less stress and more … just more. More of all the things, I like to do but don’t get a change to do because I am working all the time. I am not sure if I really want to spend the next six months working on my math certification when there are other projects and goals.

I wanted it because I thought I would be able to translate my love of math into the change I have been looking for in my life.  I wanted an easy out. No such luck. It would have been nice. Well, not really since it would have caused all sorts of other change and in the end might not have done what I wanted it to do. Secure my income base and work more on my passions, writing and gardening.  Spend more time with family and loved ones, here and in Virginia and New York as well.

I am still going to work towards the math certification. It is something I always wanted.  I gave up on being a math major in college for a couple of reasons.  The first was it got a whole lot harder than it was in high school.  I didn’t make the transition well.  I didn’t really have to study in high school and going to college, my math classes jumped up a level that I wasn’t expecting. There were lots of other pressures going on all at the same time and let myself get distracted from my course work.

I failed to ask for help until it was clear that I was way in over my head. So I got a D that first semester and the one after that. Soon a switch in majors was on the way.

The second thing that killed it for me was my instructor although kind and willing to help was that he lacked passion for subject. A grad student who was assigned to teach Freshman, he did his job, but he didn’t know how to teach. He did practice problems and reviewed with us, but there wasn’t anything engaging about the class.  Mrs. G, the veteran teacher, that I had yesterday engaged with the class.  She took time to explain and answer questions, adjusting her tone and going back and working problems.  It was really amazing to watch.

The last reason that I gave up on it was my own self-doubt. It ate and me and I allowed it to tell me that I wasn’t good enough. This has been something that has plagued me for years. For many years, I thought while I was intelligent I just didn’t have the brains to get it. Cognitively, I could tell you that there is difference between talent and skill. Skills are developed and talent may be intuitive but it takes skill to refine. Emotionally, however, I thought if I wasn’t good at something after a little bit of practice, then it wasn’t for me. I would go on to something that I was good at. Pretty silly since I never developed anything for a long time except for my writing.

I gave up on getting a degree in math many years ago for a lot of reasons. I don’t regret the choice because it led to some many other wonderful things. Still, I feel like getting my certification in math would go along way to complete something that I gave up on thinking that I just wasn’t smart enough to do it.  Turns out, I am smart enough to keep on learning.

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The best laid plans of mice and men always need to have a plan B waiting in the wing no matter how well conceived it may have been.

8:30 on a Saturday morning with pencils sharpened and a fresh pad of paper, I was ready to rediscover my love of math.  Two hours later, I discovered that in the past seventeen years I have lost more math than I thought was possible. By lunch, I was making a list of areas that I needed to brush up on and thinking about how I will find the time to audit a math class.

At 3:30, I was getting copies of the notes and my plan was back to square one. I would not be finishing this class in three weeks and taking the math certification exam. It would give me options and take some stress off if I had passed.

Now, I know that I can do it, but I am going to need do a lot more studying.

Maybe take a few classes.

And get a tutor.

Or two.

I do love math, but it isn’t like riding a bicycle.  You can’t get back on it after seventeen years and remember how everything works.  You need to practice it, use it and see if I can teach it to other. I am going to finish the review class and follow the advice of the instructor by making time to study without distraction.

Oh nieces and nephews, who wants to learn about exponents while your Mom is at the store.

Come on. It will be fun.