Am I The Only Girl In The World Who Loves Math?
Yes, just like the Rihanna song, the only girl in the world! I'm sure I'm not, but... I often used to wonder if I was, the only girl who loved math. School will soon be upon us again, crazy crazy how our summer is whittling away, isn't it? I have to admit I am a bit of a math geek, but not ashamed of it anymore.
I used to get picked on in elementary school. I was the kid wearing coke bottle trifocals at the age of two, getting good grades without much effort, and especially fond of weird number puzzles that the math teachers would hand out.
Any class that involved numbers was cake for me, and I'm not quite sure why, but I enjoyed the challenge even during my college years and in my engineering and calculus classes... solving those endless problems that took forever to figure out. The funny thing is, even though I probably should have taken just about every Math teacher's advice who taught mathematics to me and became a math teacher, I chose not to. People could never understand why or how I spoke the numerical language so well yet never pursued it. I did earn a college degree in Engineering, very heavily math based. When I ask myself why or how I did so well at a subject that many people struggle with and very verbally proclaim is the root of all evil, I come to one simple conclusion.
FAILURE. I didn't want to be a failure. I would do all of my homework, no matter how long it took... I would work and work and work until I could solve the problem and get the answer to match up with the one at the back of the book. My parents never needed to get on my case about doing the work that had to be done, if anything, they had to yell at me to put down my books, even if it was just enough time to eat my supper. This was just me, from the very beginning of life, work work work until it was right. That is why I did well in math, PASSION. I used to view the strange curse I had as just an odd personality quirk. Who wants to go down as the girl who loves to spend her free time solving complicated equations, right? I'm going to attempt to explain to you what math has taught me and you might be surprised to hear my reasons for why it is so important.
The Rochester School District begins classes on September 2nd. There are only a few days left of summer so get ready to work hard again everyone who has to go to school! You could call me a lifetime learner, because, I really sort of am! I've been going to college off and on for years and years and taken classes on just about everything under the sun, yet, I still am going, off and on... and will until whenever it is I decide I've gotten to the end of my educational pursuit, and I'm not even quite sure where it will take me.
I have constantly heard people, kids, adults, everyone it seems talk about math. Most hate it, don't understand it, don't get it, cant begin to understand how to help their children with it, mention how they will never use it, post on social media about how another day has passed and they haven't used algebra at all, etc, etc.... and it annoys the crap out of me!
I use math every single day of my life. I bet you do too! We live in a society that is driven by and built upon some of the very fundamentals of math. What - you say?
Yes. Math is everywhere. Do you know what math is to me? Solving problems. Thats it. Math teaches you to solve problems. At the most basic I can be when I defend that argument, you'll never need algebra - you will - you will solve problem after problem in your life, and math can help you figure out how.
Yes, an X and a Y, a three plus four times five divided by five gives you five, its a problem you just solved. That's really all there is to it.
Simple, eh? Well it is, actually. The sad part is, I have not always earned an A. As a matter of fact, many of my years in school I was plagued with lousy grades, test-anxiety, concentration issues, frustration, and just plain exhaustion over all of the what seemed like wasted effort to barely earn a passing grade. Not in math, for me, but just about every subject other than math. I began to really appreciate math during the time I was working towards my engineering degree. I'd go from class to class all confused and stressed out, and then get to math class. Math made sense because you could actually eventually find a definite answer. Really, its the only subject you can... or it became so in my studies. Follow the rules, get the answer, move on. Life, however, is nothing like that, I've learned ... where is the absolution? Just when you think you've got it all figured out, something changes.
AHA! Back to math again, there has to be a way! Plug and Chug, look, there is yet another solution to the never ending problem. There really is more than one way to get it to work out... and on and on. Are you following?
URGH! FILL IN THE BUBBLES. My worst nightmare was taking a test. I would literally get sick the night before and during those stupid bubble tests in school. I could get half way through the test and have my mind completely go blank. I never could understand why people had to be graded in the first place. Give a person a letter, hopefully not an F, so they can be labeled in a category so everyone knows if they are smart or not. Why? And when you do all of your homework, you know what the test is going to be on, you have a great teacher who has given you all your directions does taking a test have to be so stressful? Failure. So afraid of failure... and in the end, what do you learn the most from? MISTAKES.
My greatest accomplishment eventually became the fact that I survived that mad insane crazy rocket science of a final exam, say it isn't so, I passed? You're kidding, right? How? Then it's done, you finished that class. What did you take away from that experience? The fact that.. a) You set a goal - b) You completed your goal - c) You learned there is always more than one way to get to the finish line - and d) There is always so much more that you have to learn, and then, you get the "BIG PICTURE" things in life... e) Nobody, not even your teacher is PERFECT and every single person will make a mistake. EVEN the answers in the back of the textbook are sometimes wrong.
Doesn't math sound like real life? Well it is. Its challenging, it takes hard work and effort, it stresses you out, it drags you down, it might even make you cry, it makes you struggle, it gives you a sense of accomplishment when you do 'get it', and ... it is always going to be there. Sometimes, you even need to work with other people to figure out how to get it solved. It's over before you know it, and then, you just might miss it. I do, enough to keep trekking away... so don't take one minute of it for granted. It's almost time for school... are you ready for what you are about to learn?
Parents - the best gift you can give your children is education. Spend time with your kids, get them excited and passionate about it... the older I get, the more I realize, life is a pretty tough obstacle course, and I appreciate every drop of it I've had. Give it a whirl, help them with their math, even if it's far more advanced than they taught back in your day. My child was learning things in fourth grade I probably was not even taught until high school. If I could have a do-over of her younger years, I probably woulda spent more time at the kitchen table helping her struggle with her math homework. But then again, some things you just gotta figure out for yourself I suppose.
Did I convince you how special math is? Well here is one more thing. Music is math, math is music. I've heard it said, but I believe it. I love music also... it's closely linked, patterns, symmetry, rhythm.... and you can get lost in both, if you let yourself. To anyone preparing for another bout of eduction, repeat after me... BRING IT!