Thursday, January 14, 2016

Learn math! It’s important!

I was at a meeting one evening during the first week of school when a text came through from my husband.
“Hurry home.  There’s math homework and I can’t do it.”
Really? Seventh grade pre-algebra?  I was certain that my brain, that used to be fairly skilled at math, would be just fine.  I waltzed into the house and up to the kitchen table, full of confidence and super prepared, especially since I had not lost my TI-81 from the early 1990’s.  What could be so hard?
And then she started asking for help.
My husband gave me a deer in the headlights look, and I said a quiet thank you to the person who invented the Internet so I could quickly do a web search on cubed roots and how to combine negative exponents.  Because as brilliant as I once was at math, my brain needed some major dusting off before it could continue. 
I was humbled at the mere image of the word “integer.”
When it comes to math, I excel at the practicality of it in my life.  I can do quick mental calculations of how much I can save on groceries if I shop at one store versus another, and my true forte is manipulating figures after a shopping trip to justify my purchases to my husband by exaggerating the amount saved instead of the amount spent.  (Sometimes I just throw a bunch of division signs and percentages in there just to sound smart.)  I can cut a recipe in thirds without blinking an eye, but graphing the planets and their distance from the sun using scientific notation?  Not so much.  I can’t even fathom trying to measure a sewing pattern using exponents.
I was taken back to my own school days when I asked myself, “when am I ever going to use this?” a quite common question that nearly every math student has to ask him or herself, usually late at night when faced with pages of numbers mixed with letters and all sorts of funny symbols.
I’m here to tell you, students of today, that you will use it.  You will need to mentally sharpen your skills and force your mind to store those figures deep into those brain creases because someday, if you’re lucky, you might be a parent or a grandparent to a child who decides to take pre-algebra.  And your spouse will call on you with a glazed look in his or her eye and you too will be forced to remember things from long ago because you love your kid and want them to succeed. 
Trust me on this one.
You can thank me later.  Exponentially.


Originally written/published 10/5/14 

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