Archive for the ‘Math’ category

I had a Blast with Algebra

February 27, 2010

Yes, you read that correctly. I loved Algebra.

So now you are thinking that I am the techy analytical type who enjoys math and science. All of you, that is, who have not known me personally! On the contrary, I am the writer/dreamer/arty type who prefers to understand the concepts of  math and science without doing all the calculations.

Actually, I heartily disliked math until I was a third grader. My mom says that I would have left all the math assignments until Friday if she had let me. She had to convince me that doing a little each day was better. I made many mistakes through distaste and carelessness. By fifth grade, however, I had decided that math was not bad, just indifferent. I did it because it was assigned, and I did eventually start improving.

I slogged through fractions and decimals, figured out percents, did my best to keep track of the millimeters and kilograms in metric measurements, and I understood the concepts whether I liked the work or no. In seventh grade, Mom had me do a year of review with a different curriculum than I had been using, just to be sure we had not left any gaps. I only had trouble with calculating interest, so she decided it was okay to move forward.

To Algebra.

I am not completely sure how I picked up on the general anxiety associated with Algebra. I mean, I was the first child in our house to reach it, so I could hardly get the idea that Algebra was hard from an older sibling. And my mother was a Math and Computer Science major all those years ago, so I was not likely to get it from her or from my father, a mechanical engineer. Somehow or other I did know, however, that other people thought Algebra was hard, and it made me a little uneasy. Still, I had gained a measure of confidence from the year of review, so I went into Algebra thinking that I would learn for myself how hard it really was.

I had a ball!

Not only did I love the textbook, written by Harold Jacobs and well sprinkled with cartoons illustrating the different concepts, but I finally began to see that math can be fun. I finally began making sense out of the number world and applying it to the real one. Finding what x equaled if y was three when y meant the number of people making pies and x the number of pies made actually seemed sensible after merely adding apples and oranges or figuring out what percent of the bananas belonged to Tom, Dick, or Harry. And then we got to turn the formula around and figure out how many people (y) were needed to make x number of pies. Cool!

I had so much fun with Algebra that my enthusiasm lasted into the next year. We got Harold Jacobs’s Geometry book also, and I enjoyed that almost as much as his Algebra text. Geometry had too many proofs for my taste, but at least math was making sense and I was still having fun. I would have enjoyed Algebra 2 and Trig as well, in the year following, except that I did three semesters worth of work in two semesters time. We did not realize until the third quarter that the book was written for three semesters. Oh, well, that is the price of being the guinea pig for new curriculum sometimes. We took a year and stepped back for review then, because I had the SAT in the spring of my junior year. That year was a nice break after the heavy work of my sophomore year, and it helped prepare me for my senior year – Calculus.

If I had thought Algebra was possibly going to be hard, I really thought Calculus would be tough. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed Calculus as much as I did Algebra, except that the work was just a little harder. Still, I liked seeing all the concepts from earlier years culminating in my assignments. Sine, Cosine, and Tangent all had practical uses now. I may not remember everything I learned about Calculus after three years, but I remember doing well with it and feeling good about math. Hey, I am a Human Service major who CLEP tested out of her math requirement – and I got an A in Calculus!

So, I am not here to preach, but this story does make me think. Just because you are good at one subject does not mean that you cannot be good at others too, and just because you dislike a subject does not mean that you cannot do well in it. Maybe you are like me and prefer the English, literature, and art classes to math, science, or history. Maybe you are the opposite, or maybe you like some of each. You can still excel with other subjects.

They usually call it being a well-rounded student. I call it doing the best you can in all that you do. Paul said it this way in Colossians 3: 23, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men”(KJV).  The reward?  A new field of usefulness, a skill that you can use to further your life ambitions, or maybe a new hobby!  Whatever it is that intimidates you, that you dislike doing, step back a moment and look at it again.  Is it really as bad as all that?  What happens when you try doing the task “heartily as unto God”?

That can make even the dullest or hardest of tasks take on a new light! 

Even Algebra.

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