No Crying In Problem Solving
It never fails to amaze me how ironic life is. The class I am taking this semester is called Problem Solving. A slimmed-up (or down, depending on your view) version of high school algebra focused primarily on return to college adults to meet basic math requirements while obtaining their degree. There are several variations of this type of course and mine happens to include the added twist of word problems. Not only do I have the pleasure of being re-taught the magic and mystery of the Pythagorean Theorem but I also get to apply it to “real life problems” by solving something like this:
It costs a business (0.1x2 +x + 50) dollars to serve x customers. How many customers can be served if $250 is the cost?
Seriously! There is no way I actually envisioned a scenario where I would now be paying 1,600 in tuition to remind me how much I hated quadratic equations, cubing integers, and solving for the dreaded x. I go to sleep thinking of that stupid letter “x” and what it is doing to my social life these days.
Taking a problem solving course is ironic not because of my venting about “x” but because that’s what I do in my everyday life. I’m actually very good at it. My job for the past five years as an analyst involves analyzing data and coming up with solutions to a myriad of challenges my teams face daily. My email In-box is a repetitive chorus of “help me”. Personally, my friends call me with anything from “where’s a good place to eat dinner”, to, “how can I get rid of 10 extra pounds”. And there isn’t a girlfriend out there worth her salt that hasn’t been a shoulder to a fellow fallen sister in the problems involved with the game of love. It’s become part of who I am to solve other people’s problem or at the very least offer up viable solutions for positive results.
Anyone who is in that role at WORK or with FAMILY or with FRIENDS can likely relate to me when I say it can be draining being a problem solver. If that’s your primary role in all three areas of your life, it can be exhausting. Yet in many ways it validates me. I feel needed and wanted and that my opinion is valued and necessary – – that I make a difference.
Recently, I have come across a problem that has thrown even me for a loop. This one is scary and personal and has nothing to do with the value of pie or the square root of rational numbers. It has to do with my mother. In our 40’s, some of us, have to take on a double role – that of parent to our children as well as our aging adult parents. It’s as overwhelming a task as it seems. The issues now face you on both sides of the spectrum. Solving dating and driving issues for your teenager on Saturday night and battling the bureaucracy of Medicare and Social Security for your 70 year old mother or father on Monday morning.
For me, a new problem has recently emerged with my mother, and I wish like hell there was a simple solution in my text book that would tell me how to solve for the sweetest woman who ever walked the planet seeming to unravel before my eyes. When I read this line back, as I have done several times, it breaks my heart each time.
Tom Hanks said “there’s no crying in baseball” when admonishing the female players in the movie, A League of Their Own; and my friends there are “no tears in problem solving”. As much as I may want to. In Math and with my mom, my job is to solve the problem and succeed. That’s my plan…I’ll keep you updated.