February 11, 2011

3×2 Really Should Equal 5. (Or: Childhood Math Memories)

Posted in Watermarks in Progress at 10:36 pm by Tamara

Are you bored with posts about statistics yet?  Well, I am.  Yet, it has taken over my life (I spent seven hours Monday studying for and taking a quiz that’s only worth 2% of my grade, if that gives you an idea), so I have little other choice.  Tonight, however, the homework brought back some childhood math memories.

Adam had to help me with a problem about clothes and the number of outfits you can make with them.  For whatever reason it didn’t compute with me that if you have 2 skirts and 4 pairs of shoes and 6 shirts, buying one more skirt would give you more outfit choices than buying one more shirt.  In my head I figure you only have one more clothing article, so why would it matter which type it was?

Well, I finally got it (I guess), but it reminded me of when I was TRYING to learn to multiply as a little kid.  I was homeschooled, and Mom was patiently explaining the concept to me, but I wasn’t getting it.  In my head, 2×2=4 made sense.  But if three was one more than two, then 3×2 should equal one more than 2×2, right??  I simply could not get why it equaled two more.  Mom finally suggested I call Dad at work, and he patiently spent what seemed like forever trying to help me understand.  Apparently my brain still thinks the same way that it did 20 years ago.  Siiiiiiiiigh.

I also remember working on a multiplication worksheet while in the waiting room at the doctor’s office.  Mom at one point said something like “It’s just like adding” (which, in a way it is).  I got SO happy then—here I was struggling to understand this new concept, when it was just like the one I already understood!  I happily completed all the problems in record time and proudly brought them over to show Mom.  She was talking with someone, but stopped to commend me for finishing so quickly.  I glowed with pride (the stranger was watching too, seeing how smart I was!  Score!) until Mom looked at my answers and realized that I’d added everything instead of multiplying.  Of course, I was mortified that the whole sheet was wrong, and indignant that multiplication was NOT just like addition.  Humph!

My poor parents.  I don’t know how they persevered with me.  Now it’s poor Adam.  I don’t know how the math gene skipped my brain, but it clearly did.  It’s a wonder I can even tell time.  (Actually, to be honest, I feel a little jolt of panic every time a stranger asks me what time it is, because it feels like I take forever to read my watch.  Haha!)  Oh Math, oh Numbers, why must you reveal my obtuseness??  Can’t we just keep that our little secret?  I think this is why I feel a compulsion to blog about math, because letters and words are so comforting after hours of being bludgeoned with numbers.  Oh English, how I love you.

And the only upside of these memories is this: I know I have parents (and now a husband) who love me enough to keep explaining as for long as it takes for me to get it.  Now THAT’S love.



  1. Dad said,

    The truth is your brain is probably well-wired for math, but wired in a different way than us mere mortals, so we weren’t properly equipped to teach you in a language that your brain could compute. The trick is to find the proper teacher that can program your brain in the language it was made for.

  2. Stacy said,

    You have my deepest sympathies my friend! I much prefer letters over numbers. I did like multiplication as a kid, but sadly, that’s where my romance with math ended. We don’t speak to each other anymore.

  3. Dad said,

    Hey, that could be a song – “You don’t bring me fractions anymore…”

    • Stacy said,

      Love “planned a romance that just hadn’t a chance and I’m through”

  4. Tamara said,

    Hehe–thanks for the encouragement (and song), Dad. I will try to tell myself when I see my grade that mere-mortal grades don’t apply to my brain. :)

    And Stacy, I have tried so hard not to speak to Math anymore. It’s like the horrifyingly annoying mop in those “Don’t you want me, Baby” commercials! It just won’t go away! Aaah!

    • Stacy said,

      Now I have “Don’t you want me Baby” and “Love you didn’t do right by me” taking turns running through my head…

      • Tamara said,

        Hahaha! I prefer the latter.

        “Maaaaaaath! You didn’t do right, by meeeeee…. To send me an equation that had winter and frustration in its heaaaaart wasn’t smaaaaaart…..”

  5. Mom said,

    Haha! You are also an excellent STORY teller! I’m not convinced the math gene skipped your brain, but I’m pretty sure the word gene skipped mine. Love you!

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