July 12, 2023

(edited repost)
Math phobic Journalist

Read the story between the lines

Now I’ll reveal my dirty little secret. I am the most math impaired person I know. When I took a basic math course in college, my instructor told me that I had the worst case of math anxiety he had ever seen or heard of. I have had nightmares about math that woke me with heart pounding and cold sweats. Go ahead and laugh, but it’s no fun to be chased by menacing algebraic equations and rammed and jabbed in the head by their pointy little brackets and the sharp ends of numbers two and three, while evil letters representing unknown numbers try to smother and gag you.
At 25 when I returned to college I sat at the dining room table crying over my math homework, and my four year old daughter patted me on the shoulder and said, “That’s okay, Mommy. We know you can’t do math.”. I hate the stuff. That said, my next door neighbor at the same time loved math (she was going back to college at the same time I did), and she insisted that she used algebra almost every day. I suspect that people who are good at it do use it in every day life, and those of who aren’t good at don’t use it every day is for the obvious reason that we can’t use it (and shudder at the thought of trying). If you’re good at it, then it would save time. If you’re like me, trying to use algebra to solve an everyday problem would cost thousands of dollars in psychological treatment.
So, did I tell my kids it was okay, they didn’t need to know that stuff and would never use it?
No, I told them I was a terrible warning, and they didn’t want to turn out like me. I told them math was a world they should know, that just because their mother didn’t have a passport to that world was no reason for them to give up on it. I told my kids that they were too young to close any doors on learning yet, that they could not just refuse to learn things now. I also explained that Mom is a complete numbskull when it comes to anything beyond addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, so there may be a perfectly good reason they should know this stuff, but asking me to find one was about as sensible as asking their two year old sister’s advice about what book they should read next for science. I also pointed out that it wouldn’t be long before they could do math Mom couldn’t.) and they should be pleased to be able to know more than their mother before they get out of grade school:-)
Incidentally, I got a C in algebra in High School, and a B in my math class in College. I couldn’t tell you how, except perhaps my college instructor felt sorry for me. I didn’t learn anything. I don’t feel like I earned it, and even then, I didn’t feel like anybody was doing me any favors.