I’ve always hated math.
To me, there was always that nagging lack of creativity in arithmetic.
Why must I find X? Someone’s already done it.
But there it is- that’s the process; that’s the equation. (You) give (me) a (question). One that you already know the answer to. One that’s already been solved so many million bajillions of times that it’s worn out on the page in the workbook. It’s tired. I’m tired. But still (I) give (you) an (answer). And once I find it (or don’t), I’m either right, and move on away from it, or I’m wrong, and you look at your page, and then back at mine, and make a big red X with your pen in that last fatal stroke of irony. So now I’ve found X.
But I’ll admit it, at that, the dirty little secret of most students- I’ve always mostly just cared about the grade. That process that had so encouraged me to cut and snip problems down to the bare essentials- to the final answer, a number- left me caring about products in an entirely different manner than intended. Namely, those products of mine, those numbers or letters in a column on a black and white sheet. My grades. First to second to third grade, from problem set to pop quiz, from ELA to CTP, SAT, ACT- let’s be honest here- I was not taking calculus to stretch the mental capacities of my mind; I was doing it to get into college. And when I sat in my second column third row desk of Mrs. Knight’s class and answered “Of course,” to her question of “Aren’t integrals exciting?”, there was nothing there save the simple solving for a predetermined X.
But let’s give the numbers a chance here- let’s set up an equation. Here’s the formula: ask a person--anyone--what their favorite book as a child was. We could even put it in a table if you’d like. F of X = Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse. You will receive snaps and sighs and well-remembered smiles, dusted off.
In my mind, there was never any equivalent function to this for memories of arithmetic. There exist superstitions, of course; there are favorite numbers, lucky numbers, the fear of six or the love of seven or three. But those in search of a nostalgic grin--of a memory of warmth and body--might seek forever in the land of numbers for what a mere mention of words might evoke.
So that leaves me in a bit of a rut with math--with numbers--conditioned as I am to hold them so far outside of myself, and with cautiously protected fingers at that. The subject gives me anxiety. And I can very easily see that for the tragedy it is without emotionally being able to reconcile it within my mind. Math problems, to me, were never an exercise in problem solving but rather a rigidly defined solution to a problem, predetermined and hidden most expertly by all those who’d previously found it. The world’s worst treasure hunt.
For me, this piece has given back a bit of the reconciliation I’ve been searching for. The idea that there can be creativity, fun, interactiveness in math is something still new and foreign to me. I’d love very much for that patience and eagerness for problem solving to be planted quite firmly into the mind of every child. To have them encounter math for the first time thinking that 9 is a bit over-dramatic, or that 3 is meek yet proud. To give a shape and a face and a human form to these numbers that simply quantify how our brains shape and face and form the world around us.
This piece is intended to be a weaving of these worlds of literacy and math, a warming of the analytical, an attempt not to forcibly inject creativity but instead to reveal it where it already exists. There is an entire world of possibilities waiting between the 0 and the 9, in the crook of addition’s cross, in the evening out of one side to the other. There is proof to be found in proofs.
Go find X. And tell me all about it.
is an aspiring writer of some unknown sort -- she'd prefer to let her stories choose that for her. She writes to appreciate a bit of fancy in the everyday.