Soothing Powers of Math
There is something soothing about Math. I would have never thought this to be the case before taking this class. I hated Math from my elementary days right up until my freshmen year at the Storrs Campus of UCONN, twenty plus years ago. Back then I had a Monday morning 6am class with a Teaching Assistant (TA) who spoke English as his second language and Calculus as his first. I literally didn’t understand anything that was being said, first, because of his thick Chinese accent and second because of his singularly myopic mathematical focus. I got a D+ in that class. I am certain, the only reason I didn’t fail is because I was one of the few students who actually showed up for the entire semester.
Now as I am older and enrolled in Math 1020Q: Problem Solving as part of my degree-seeking Journey, Math is beginning to take on an entirely different meaning. In Mathematics there is logic and reason. The Professor tells me the rule and my job is to apply it to get the right answer. It helps if you understand it as well, but get this, you don’t always have to fully understand the theory in order to get a positive result! You must merely accept that the rule is LAW, apply it correctly to the problem, and sit back and watch the right answer unfold. On the other hand, if you fail to perform the steps correctly you are guaranteed zero success.
Why can’t life work this way?
As I was preparing for my first test this morning with sample practice questions, I found myself making simple mistakes. Finally, I told myself to always use the calculator to check my answers. Genius! It was so simple, every time I did something wrong, I had only to trace my steps backwards to find where I made the one misstep by using technology to point out the incorrect action and hopefully ensure I didn’t do it again. There is an amazing amount of comfort in knowing there is a perfectly logical reason for your faults. I believe you can only find this is the world of mathematics.
In this larger classroom, we call Life, its extremely hard to know whether or not the choices we make will get the desired outcome. There is no scientific calculator, I can punch facts into before (or after) making a decision about my job, that will give me an inkling as to whether or not I will find satisfaction taking on a new role. Who of us hasn’t wondered if imparting 2 parts tough love and one part indulgence in planning our kids birthday parties (or whatever your ratio is), will lead to emotionally healthy and well balanced adults or self absorbed egomaniacs. And in the most complicated course of all, love, there’s no formula to tell you whether the relationship you’re in is the best one for you or if you are spinning your wheels with no hope of getting the brass ring at the end of the ride.
I have spent so much time hating math that I failed to realize that there is a glorious, peace of mind that comes every Saturday morning from 9am – 11am when I enter my pre-algebra class and perform exercises that are founded on “the known”. Beginning at 11:01 am, when I pack up my #2 pencils and close my ridiculously heavy textbook, the rest of my life returns and I have to again tackle the really hard stuff – the “unknown”.