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Everyone knows that Pi r round

March 14, 2012

Today is Pi day and in honor of it, I made pie.  Strawberry pie.  You see, I understand pie.  But I don’t really understand Pi.  I don’t understand much of anything that is related to mathematics.

I’ve been like this my entire life.  Back in the days of elementary school I was given workbooks and mimeos (SNIFFFF!) and plenty of homework, but I understood little of it.  I worked very hard to get As and Bs but would immediately forget what I’d done that had earned me those As and Bs.  I can remember sitting at my dining room table, crying, with my dad attempting to help me with my homework.  Every assignment took me forever to complete.  I hated it all with the fire of a thousand suns.  It left me feeling stupid and worthless.  Completing an assignment correctly rarely felt like success.  It just felt like escaping public failure.  Barely.

English assignments were a whole ‘nother pony.  I remember a workbook that took us step-by-step through phonetic principles.  I understood them instantly.  I swallowed them down and they became a part of me, and to this day I can read all sorts of words the very first time I see them, simply because I understand the language of phonetics.  I also understood grammar (even if I am sometimes too lazy to use it properly)…and spelling…and root words and prefixes and suffixes and anything that has to do with reading and writing.  It was very easy to get As in English.

When I took my ACTs during my senior year of high school, I tested so high in the English portion that I didn’t have to take any college English.  But math?  I got a 5.  I’m not joking.  The scoring system really did go that low (I know the test is scored differently now).  I had cemented my place in the Math Hall Of Shame.

It’s funny how much more weight a thing I can’t do holds in comparison to the things I can do.

It was many years after my schooling that I began to understand something very basic about myself:  I am a visual person, and a visual learner.  Most everything I see, hear, smell, taste, touch, translates to an inner picture for me.  If I can’t see it, even if just in my mind, I usually don’t understand it very well, if at all.  When I was about to enter my sophomore year of high school, I got the wild idea that I wanted to try taking geometry.  I hadn’t yet taken algebra, and so I was discouraged from doing so.  So I didn’t.  Looking back, I realize that I was tapping into a portion of math that made sense to me, the portion that was about shapes and angles and lines.  Visual stuff.

I wonder what would have happened if I’d taken it?  I’m sure my final class standing would have been much lower when I’d graduated.  But I wonder if I would have understood geometry?

These days I operate on a very practical basis when it comes to math.  I can figure basic percentages, mostly so I know how much a sale item is going to cost.  I can half and double amounts, mostly to adjust recipes.  I think of fractions and percentages in terms of little pies in my head.  In other words, if I can make it visual, I can usually figure it out.  But if I have to apply some formula that has neither reason nor visual elements attached to it, all bets are off.  My brain just doesn’t seem to be wired for it.

I am beyond grateful that my schooling happened when it did.  Kids learn advanced math much earlier these days.  I stopped being able to help the youngest Sparkette with math by the time she hit third grade, when I began to see the things that were hinted at in my eighth grade lessons.  I didn’t understand them then, and I don’t understand them now.  Fortunately for the Jr. Spark and all the Sparkettes, Mr. Sparky is excellent at all things mathematical.  And also fortunately for them, they all inherited his math genes.

I do make a mean strawberry pie, though.  And I can double the recipe with the best of ’em.

Most days, that’s enough.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Joann permalink
    March 15, 2012 8:04 am

    My picture is hanging right next to yours in that hall. History and English were always my thing, except when it came to dates. All numbers turn around backwards in my mind and I’m fortunate enough to be married to a mathematician who can help the girls with all their math questions!!

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