Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Math Phobia, or My Worst New Year's Resolution Ever.

Blame it on Barbie.

Do you remember when toymaker Mattel created a minor scandal by equipping a talking Barbie doll with the recorded comment, "I hate math. Math is hard."? Equal-rights proponents, especially those eager to see an increased number of women pursuing STEM careers (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) raised such a hue and cry over this demoralizing influence on young girls that the offending statement was swiftly banished from Barbie's vocabulary--replaced, one assumes, by something far more innocuous, like "I love tiny pink plastic shoes" or "I have physical proportions not found in nature."

The thing was, I didn't quite see what the fuss was about. After all, I too hate math. Whatever qualities make for a good math mind, I have the opposite. Even the simplest calculations tend to make my brain fog over. For a reasonably smart person, I have a capital-D Deficiency when it comes to numbers. I explain this away by claiming to be a "words" person, not a "numbers" person. (And right now you're muttering that that's a cop-out if ever you heard one. Am I right?)

Somehow I skimmed through high school and college by meeting only the bare-minimum math requirements. Since then, calculators and spreadsheet programs have allowed me to limp along in the real world, to some extent.

Which brings me to the point of this post (yes, there is one):  My Worst New Year's Resolution Ever, the year I decided to teach myself math in a misguided effort to overcome the shame and dread of story problems involving trains leaving this station and that station, and the eternal fruitless quest for X.

And so, thought I, what better way to spend cold, dark winter evenings than plumbing the depths of arithmetic, algebra, even (gulp) geometry? Visions of calculus danced in my head. Just pull out a textbook and begin at the beginning. It should have been simple, right?

Dear reader, I barely made it past chapter one in the textbook. I yawned. I balked. I fogged. Every bad memory I had of math class came rushing back to me, full force. After a halfhearted attempt or two, I dreaded even cracking open the book. And with no teacher holding me accountable, I didn't.
So on top of my epic failure to understand math in school, I have now added a epic failure to stick to a New Year's resolution meant to overcome the first epic failure. Two epic failures for the price of one!

What was your worst New Year's resolution? Or your best one? Write it up and submit it to our Best/Worst New Year's Resolution contest. If you never make resolutions, tell us why you don't. We'd love to hear from you, and you might even win a prize! Details are on our Contests page.

In the meantime, I've been eying an online course in Basic Math. Hope springs eternal. Maybe having an instructor to guide me will help it all make sense, instead of trying to figure it out on my own.

Maybe. But don't hold me accountable.


Jennifer Rova said...

My husband is a "numbers" person while I, like you, are a "words" person. We are a perfectly balanced couple. Writing resolutions for a contest is, imaginative and requires good writing skills. These are the only reason I ever write a New Year's resolution other than the ones I write mentally every day and have broken by the end of the day. Glad to read I have other "words" groupies.

Elizabeth S. Brinton said...

I purchased a GRE prep book, and thought I would beat back my math phobia one chapter at a time. Sigh. By day three I was in tears as my husband tried to 'explain' something to me. In my junior year of high school, I found the elusive answer, and proudly displayed it to my class, filling three entire black boards. My teacher shook her head, and then had someone else demonstrate the answer in three simple steps. My B.A. degree came from Mills, a wonderful Liberal Arts College for Women, and the only institution I could find with no math requirement. I truly do not think I have ever needed it.

Kathy Cooney Dobbs said...

I didn't need Barbie's influence to tell me I didn't like Math - I didn't like it when it was still called Arithmetic ! I'm sure my husband, Gary thinks a Math class a good idea, thinking it might help me keep our check book straight... but I can tell you it's not going to happen :)For me its always been about the words -I'm what some might call a 'logophile' :)))