Sunday, November 25, 2012

Life Lesson: Why I Hate Math and Why I Need To Do More

"In mathematics you don't understand things. You just get used to them." ~Johann von Neumann US (Hungarian-born) computer scientist, mathematician (1903 - 1957)

I have a love-hate relationship with math.  I love math for its everyday applications in cooking, graphics design, balancing my checkbook, and figuring out the best arrangement of 13 people in a room.  But math for math's sake? Well, that's a different story. I've sat here since 7:30 solving basic algebra equations because I am driven to master a subject that has alluded me, if not terrified me, since I was little.  Math is a fascinating subject.  You can prove and disprove some many ideas just by shifting around a bunch of numbers and their variables.  Entire worlds are built on math.  And I would like to add my contribution.  This, of course, means I have to get over my fear of math, which begs the questions: What the hell is there to be afraid of in the first place?

Well, those who have read this blog for some time will immediately know the problem--I'm a perfectionist.  Not to the point that I'm not willing to take risks and make mistakes, but it's different with math.  The answer either is or it isn't.  There is no justifying your method, thought process, or approach.  If an answer is wrong, then it is wrong.  And I hate being wrong. Added to that is the whole notion of fractions and negative numbers. In a crisp, clean perfectionist's world everything is a whole number and everything is on the positive side of the number line. Or, if the occasion for a fraction does arise, it's a neat fraction like 1/4 or 3/4 or 2/3 where the top number is smaller than the bottom. It's nothing ridiculous like 54/27.  What the hell does that mean anyway?

I'm not even going to get into variables.  The unknown is terrifying and that fact that variables are referred to as the "unknown" sends chills up my spine.  In a perfectionist's world, all is known and safe.  Yes, I know reality isn't like that and I've traveled many unknown roads before.  But to me that 'x' and 'y' are still scary. God forbid I end up with a 98/3 in that unknown.  Then what?

As I end my lessons in frustration, thrown off by negative numbers and reducing fractions and simple multiplication, I realize I need to do more math.  All these emotional issues and fears that I've looked to self-help books and counselors for solutions, well maybe they aren't sufficient.  Maybe the road to that solution is much more straightforward, logical, and definite.  It is or it isn't. So despite wanting to quit this morning, I come home to a place less subjective for me--my writing-- vowing to return to face down the mathematical demon in the morning.


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