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Arithmetic & Math

Whiz & Washout

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Hate It

You could put a gun to my head right now and I could not tell you what 9 x 8 is.  Heck I probably can't even tell you the correct answer to the following animated math problem.  Which one is true?

When I think back on my struggles in 5th grade arithmetic I totally claim 'arithmelexic'.  This is a new word to describe mathmetical dyslexic. 

Such a sad disability in that the victims of this syndrome actually see numbers backwards from they way they are supposed to be.  Parents and teachers scream at us that we are careless, lazy and not paying attention.  After years of this abuse, it is probably true.

I can remember my dad sitting me down at the kitchen chalkboard trying to teach me Roman Numerals.  It was a requirement to pass 3rd grade in the new school district we had just transferred into.  The other kids were months ahead of me and I had no clue.

I could think of no reason why a civilized society used the letters XVI to enumerate anything whatsoever!  Who cares about Chapter II.  Seems just as appropriate and much more logical to use 2, or two, even to and too seem like more easily digestible.  In the third grade I hadn't learned about outlines and even when I did I didn't understand just exactly why section heads used Roman Numb-er-als.

Lest there be any misunderstanding, I am not stupid.  I understand mathematical concepts. I GET algebra!  I just cannot add, subtract, multiply or divide!  My dad once said I'd have made a great engineer if I could only do basic math.  This is true.  I see engineering in my head.  I just can't make it all add up.

If they would have had calculators when I was in high school I might have passed.  Course this would have meant that after I got the right answer I would have not transposed the numbers upside down and backwards.

Its been something like over 30 years since I have been allowed to touch the family checkbook.  I'm allowed to look at it from a distance.  I'm permitted to ask for pre-written checks.  That's about it.

I'm not a Neanderthal, I have my own checking account.  I hardly ever bounce checks! Two weeks ago I asked the honey to take my deposit to the bank for me.  I checked, double checked, calculated and printer calculator'd it.  I got a phone call.  I'd transposed two numbers on the deposit slip and did I really want to deposit the full amount or what.  Geeeeese I hate it when that happens.  Punitive damages include another 30 year 'no touch the checkbook' sentence.  Although I think the actual words used were 'No way in hell. Don't you never,  EVER touch this checkbook!' I think there is a grammatical 'double negative' in that sentence but at the time I was disinclined to correct him.

I think grammar and spelling has a role in mathematics.  Particularly in story problems.  Why don't teachers give extra credit for correct spelling?  Why are they so annoyed when students like me correct their spelling and grammar?

Something like this actually happened in my Junior year in High School Algebra.

The story problem read (and I paraphrase):

"300 chikens were on a trane leaving Chicago at 8:00am.  500 chikens were on a trane leaving Denver at 10:00am.  Both tranes average 75mph.  Where and at what time do the to tranes collide?"

My response was something like this, "NO body cares what time the TWO TRAINS collide. That's the fault of the railroad traffic monitoring people and has no relevance in my life whatsoever. 

"As for the CHICKENS, what happens to the CHICKENS is more interesting than the assigned 'story' problem.  With a total of 800 CHICKENS, one might envision several scenarios.   If the impact was significant to knock the cars off the tracks and unleash the chickens, then luck be good to the poor people living on the other side of the tracks on that day.

"There is a low probability that all 800 CHICKENS are released alive to the hungry masses.  It is possible that one or both of the TWO TRAINS erupt in a fire ball which would roast a portion of the chickens.  If the feathers are burned off, there is a chance that the cooked chickens might be collected by people living on both sides of the tracks but only if the fireball causes an explosion that hurls CHICKENS all over the landscape. It is possible that both live and cooked chickens would be free for the taking.  This solution to this story problem is the inverse disproportionate relationship between  metaphor and multiple possibilities passing any test of reasonable-ness.  This story problem deals in chaos theory mathematics which is beyond our grade level."

I actually got a D- on that problem.  Probably because I figured out that there were 800 chickens.

I also conclude that there are no poems or song written about math whizzes.  Prove me wrong and catch me if you can!

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