Friday, December 14, 2012

Math and Me: The Lack of Equality

I do not do numbers. We just do not work. I can pick up on ideas fairly quickly in any subject and I can remember most facts, unless those facts are numbers, but none the less, in high school, I still made better math grades than many of my classmates. I get the ideas, not the numbers.

It was my sophomore year, and I was in geometry. One day we had a sub that gave us the option of playing a game or doing the worksheet. If you know students of any age, our choice won't be remotely surprising. We played the game. In the game, a girl went up to one side of the white board and a boy went to the other. The sub read a problem, and whoever finished the problem correctly earned a point for their team. It was pretty straight forward; then I went up there.

217 x 16

I stood there, marker poised to make a mark as my opponent scribbled away. I could hear some boys whispering behind me.

"She's doing it in her head. There's a white board in her head, man."

The boys' team got the point, and I slid back in my seat without making a mark to show any work, wondering if that's really what they thought. What really happened? I stood there for about four minutes trying to remember what six times seven is.

Multiplication has never been my friend. We started timed multiplication tests in third grade. 50 problems  in 15 minutes, till we started 100 problems in so much time. I never finished. I would stress out and there would be nothing there. It got so bad that I'd try to go to the nurse at just the right time, so I could avoid it. It did make me feel bad though. Somehow, I never missed a test, except on days I was absent. When my Algebra 1 teacher had us do one for "fun" at the beginning of my freshman year, I ended up crying when I hugged my mom after school. I hadn't even finished halfway when everyone else was finished and talking loudly behind me. I think multiplication has scarred me in some irreversible way.

In fourth grade we would split into pairs and quiz each other with multiplication problems. Two one digit numbers. They were on flash cards. Once one person showed the other a card, she had to answer in fifteen seconds. I basically failed at that.

Back even farther, to when we started subtraction. I'd actually been getting along with numbers. Each had its own personality and gender. They behaved in set ways when they were with each other. Then subtraction came along and my sweet little world shattered. I started to dislike math.

Looking through award certificates and teachers notes that my mother had kept from my elementary years, I found a sweet little note from my kindergarten teacher to my mother, explaining that I had accomplished the task of counting to 100, however, I had left out the number fifteen and that I often did, when I counted. I remember that when I read that, as a little one, I was fairly put out. Who needs fifteen? It's not important! The irony of this? My favorite number has been fifteen for the last few years.

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