Daily Archives: June 12, 2011

Fun With Math

There is currently a push on to get more children interested in mathematics.  Personally, I reckon it would be easier to get them to drink liver flavoured milkshakes, but I wish them luck anyway.

You see, my generation was caught between two math systems, Metric and Imperial, and as a result, I’m hopeless at both.  Eventually I morphed into someone who measures height in feet, distance in metres, and body parts in inches, eg: I’m six feet tall, my finger joints are an inch long, and each foot is nearly one foot.  I don’t know the lengths of any other bits…

Every now and then I’ll have another crack at my arithmetical nemesis, but as soon as I open one of my daughters’ math books and see the words, “Train A is approaching the station at an unknown speed, while Train B…”  I feel my skin crawl as the old terror comes creeping back.

Suddenly, I’m back in school gazing at test questions that made as much sense to me as a cars’ wiring diagram.  Are the trains’ diesel, electric or steam?  What colour is train B?  How fast was the station moving again?  And should we be worrying about a hypothetical train smash when President Reagan was about to nuke the Russians and plunge us into WW3?

I recall late nights hunched over exercise books filled with crossed out equations, rubber shavings, and dried tear stains.  Eventually I’ll close the math book and pick up a novel, preferring the fun of fantasy to a book full of frustrating formulas.  My mathematical illiteracy remains a dark cloud in an otherwise sunny existence.

Words and wordplay thrill me; I can ‘see’ words, or what they represent, eg: mountain, green, numbskull, etc.  But for the life of me, I just can’t put a picture to the number 647, or any of its’ numerous associates.  Fractions continue to remain a complete mystery to me, and Roman numerals have only come in handy for working out what year movies were made.

So while I heartily cheer the efforts of those passionate mathematicians who are hoping to improve our children’s calculating confidence, I think I’ll stick to wrangling with words.  The only time I’m ever going to get slightly enthusiastic about numbers is when I see my Lotto numbers come up; and then I’ll pay one of those whiz kids to do my sums for me.

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