Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Smoking Math Class


Numbers and I have always had sort of an uneasy relationship. When I was in elementary school, in fifth grade I was reading at a second year of college level. Verbally, I've always been able to blow the socks off everybody, but numbers...well...ew. Turns out that my math is problem solving math. It is basically a book filled to overflowing with word problems. Word problems!!!!! I remember crying in frustration over word problems. I simply did not 'get' them. By the time that I'd struggled through trigonometry, I was done with math. I did not have to take Calculus if I did not want to, and I did not want to. On a most visceral level, I did not want to.

Last night was math class. 2 hours and 45 minutes of fun with numbers. And really so far, it hasn't been bad, although last weeks homework made me want to begin hacking at my own jugular. Problem was, after all the writing, the pencil was too dull to do damage. One problem took me 45 minutes. Turned out, I had oversolved. The question asked me to come up with all possible combinations of four even numbers totalling 24. So I gave him 141 possible solutions. Heh. Turns out that, f'rinstance 10 + 2 + 8 + 4 and 10 + 2 + 4 + 8 and 8 + 4 + 2 + 10 ad nauseum was one answer. For each combination, I listed every order I could come up with. Two pages of numbers. I'm telling you. Math is not my friend.

Last night we were solving problems like WOW + WOW + SO = COOK. W = 7. What are the other numbers. Or GTOM + PNAG = EGOAT. They'd assign a number to one of the letters, and you'd have to figure out the rest of them. Or ABCD x 4 = DCBA. What are the numbers ABCD stand for? The like. So I was struggling away, and here's the thing. I was solving the problems. A girl on my right kept saying "What are you doing? How did you know that? Why did you try that number?" And really, I couldn't, if my very life had depended on it, told you how I was solving these problems. I simply was. I found myself trying to explain by saying, 'Well, it fits. It has to be. It's the only number that fits' and that was it, really. The numbers all fit together like pieces of a puzzle. It wasn't a fluke. It happened over and over again. I understood how the numbers went together without understanding how I understood at all. I tried to demonstrate how this was happening at the chalkboard, and although I could do it, it was hard to explain. I felt a little like 'Rain Man'. It fits. It just fits. I don't know. I can just see that it fits, and I buy my underwear at Kmart.

When class was over, I was glad to leave, because I was stressed out. Nervous. Jittery. My hands were sweaty, and I was exhausted, and I had a headache too. It was the wierdest thing. I've never been good at math, but I am smoking this class (at least so far), and I don't understand why.


A Novel Woman said...

You bought into the Math Myth! As the article below states, a positive attitude towards math is the first step towards success. The most powerful learning happens when mistakes are made. Someone pointed this out to me the other day when I made (yet another) mistake in my knitting and it's true for an awful lot in life.

Keep on truckin' and addin' and subtractin' mama!


Mikey said...

Lol, you are so funny!! I'm so glad you're doing good in this class. I HATE math. Same as you. Although I only struggled thru high school geometry and algebra and I was done. I would rather eat glass than do math.

WhiteStone said...

I, on the other hand, love the logic, the certainty, the truth, the wonderful stuff of math...not that I'm a mathemetician, mind you. But if you know the "rules" of the logic, it works. I was fortunate to have a high school algebra teacher who taught us the "rules". I know that if I am working the rules, the answer will always be accurate. Or something like that....

Kelly said...

I'm glad you're doing well so far and have confidence you will continue to do so.

I like basic math, when things total like they're supposed to. (basic bookkeeping, I guess) Beyond that, I don't enjoy it.

These days the only numbers I encounter are in recipes when I halve or double them (fractions, which I can handle) or the sudoku (which is nothing more than logic).

I'm proud of you, Debby!

corymbia said...

Woo hoo - maths isn't so bad when you have the opportuniny to find your own way to solve the problem.
I've taught remedial maths to high school students before, and the one thing that I think really helps is giving them a few ways to solve a problem rather than making all use the set formulae.

BUSH BABE said...

Oh Lord... maths and me. Not a match made in heaven. You are doing great Deb - I am studying vicariously with ya!

Bob said...

Yes, Debby, you are doing great. I took high school math through Algebra II and almost failed it. If I had to take it again, I would . . . . well I don't know what I'd do but it would not be pretty. My youngest son has inherited my anti-math gene and has a tutor.

Daria said...

I'll pass on the math too ... sounds like you're having a blast tho.