Numbers have fried my brain!

Square root of x formula. Symbol of mathematics.


For the past few months I have been tutoring my oldest daughter in her Accounting II and Statistics class for her Business Degree – and then I spent this evening helping my son study for his Algebra final for his Environmental Science degree.  Since I have a degree in Math and an MBA – I figured this would be the right thing to do — and besides, she asked me!  When she was in high school and needed help, she would run to her nearest friend’s house when I would offer to help.  It seems my children would rather be run over by a train than have me help them with their math.  My kids always just wanted to guess at the answer and not do any of the steps to get to it – which didn’t usually work out very well for them.  They always felt I was making them take too much time to do a problem — when they knew what the answer should be (usually by looking in the back of the book).

It isn’t because I’m a bad teacher – actually when they accept my help they tend to do pretty well.  I’m pretty sure the problem isn’t my teaching style – it’s my ‘not doing your homework for you’ style.  Yep — I’m one of ‘those’ parents who believes that the only way a child can learn is if the child does the math themselves – and they do LOTS of it.  Repetition is the key in math – you can’t just do one problem and expect to understand the concept – and that’s what kids don’t like.  Add that to all of the distractions and the inability to understand where they use algebra or trigonometry in their every day lives – and you are headed towards a numbers meltdown!

The thing to remember about math is that it isn’t about the numbers.  I know — that sounds strange since that’s ALL there is in math – but the real power of math is logic — you know, that thing that Mr. Spock is always telling Captain Kirk to use – logic – the ability to see the progression to a solution, the ability to make sense out of a situation, the ability to analyze a situation and determine the outcomes.  That’s really what math is all about.  If you master mathematics, you open a world where you are able to look at any problem – not just math problems — but problems involving every day situations – and determine the best way to approach the problem.

Logic is involved in everything we do — from finding our way to work in the morning to playing our computer games at night.  It is involved in our interactions with others and how we understand what we are reading in our newspapers and books.  Logic is gives us a sense of our place in the world and how we can make it better.  When we understand a sequence of events and the possible outcomes, we make better decisions in our lives – that is logic.

So – yes – my brain is a little fried right now from swimming in numbers for the last couple of weeks – but I know that the knowledge I helped my children gain wasn’t just about passing a test or understanding how to solve an algebraic equation – it was about giving them the tools to live a better life, to solve life’s problems and as Mr. Spock would say “to be logical” in the way they approach the challenges in their lives.


10 responses »

  1. So funny. I can be very logical but I never “got” math. Never. Except the basics (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, percentages — nothing ‘higher’ like calculus, physics, etc.).

    My husband, on the other hand, has a Ph.D. in physics and is just as at home with numbers as I am not. We are so opposite!

    By the way, he tutors kids and is confounded by the children who won’t let their parents help them. I tell him this is normal for Jr. High and High School aged kids and it’s a phase that will pass. See — I was right! I’m better with the intuitive stuff than he is!

    • You definitely are underestimating your math abilities! From reading your blogs I know that you sing and are musical. All music is based in mathematics — and studies have proven that people who are good at math are good at music. So next time any one says anything about your math — you just tell them that you sing your math instead of writing it down!

      • I know about the music/math correlation. They say to play Mozart for your unborn (and I guess born!) child if you want them to be good at math. Since Mozart was an acknowledged genius, this makes sense, as all music is based on intervals and of course they are mathematical. But still, I sucked at math in school. Well, from Jr. High on. I think I probably suffered from that girl’s syndrome, but it wasn’t recognized back then. I just started having problems with math in Jr. High and by High School I was in the same level math class as my brother, who is two years younger than me! That was humiliating.

        Anyhow, I learned the basics and can make change (surprising how many people don’t know how to do that any more) and am good at measuring (because I sew), as well as the other basics I mentioned, which is all I need. And if I want an explanation of physics or some other, higher form of math, all I have to do is ask my husband! He is very good at explaining big concepts to amateurs like me, which makes me feel very smart (to understand the idea). Then I don’t feel like a complete dummy if a phrase like “string theory” comes up!

      • Not quite sure about what my mom played – she had a wide range of taste — classical to Eddie Arnold (country) to Englebert Humperdink — maybe that’s why I’m a little scatterbrained at times!

  2. I love this post! I am a math teacher and am always facing the question of “When are we going to have to use this?” I tell them that they are learning a way of thinking, and that they may never use a particular formula or theorem after this year, but the skills they are learning in problem solving, estimation, and – yes – logic, will come in very handy throughout the rest of their lives!

    Thank you!

    • This is so weird — the fact that you are a math teacher – and my maiden name is … Hogan!!!! Wow — it must be something in the genes! Tell your students without learning the logic of math, they won’t be able to find their way home at night – or better yet — figure out how to beat a level of Angry Birds (which is all about vectors) – or even pool (more vectors!). Pretty cool stuff!

  3. My mother had crap musical taste. She LOVED Helen Ready and very hokey, sentimental songs. Yuk. But my dad liked jazz and I know they listened to jazz when I was conceived and was young, so I think I got heard good music when I was little. For some inexplicable reason I love opera, no thanks to either of my parents! I guess it’s some weird quirk, because for sure no one else in my family ever listened to it when I was young, and I only discovered it after I moved out and was living on my own. But I don’t like Mozart! Maybe that’s why my math skills are lacking!

    • Mom never liked Jazz – and she wasn’t a Mozart fan either — mainly Beethoven. Me? I’m personally a fan of Dvorak and Beethovan – not too hot on Mozart either!

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