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
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
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
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
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
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
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