By the numbers

I don’t get along really well with math. Numbers kind-of baffle me. I just can’t manage to get cozy with calculation. images10

This is not exactly a selling point if you are an elementary school teacher, as I am, because it does somewhat limit your options. At the start of my career, I chose to teach Grades 1 and 2, mostly because I enjoyed kids at that age (and I still do), but also because the mathematical demands on me wouldn’t be too onerous. I mean, teaching kids how addition works, that I can handle. Simplifying fractions is another matter entirely.

Now I am more of a French Language Arts specialist in my school and no longer enroll a class of my own. I mostly tutor small groups of kids to help improve their French reading and writing skills now. I’m still avoiding math quite successfully.

Strangely, I can – and do! – balance my chequebook regularly and correctly. But it often takes me several tries, because I can’t always use my calculator properly. It’s not my gel fingernails or the actual calculator. It’s me. My fingers just don’t hit the right keys. I know I’m meant to hit the “6”, let’s say, but for some reason, I hit the “2” instead. They don’t look alike, nor are they adjacent buttons. I just don’t do it right.

I had already been teaching for a couple of years when I finally learned what exactly we are doing when we borrow and carry when we’re adding or subtracting (for example) two-digit numbers: we are making another group of ten or we are breaking up a group of ten so that we can take some away. I could certainly perform the operation, but I had no idea what was really happening and why I was adding tiny “1”s or crossing out numbers!

It has only been in the last year or so that PG informed me of a quick way to figure out a tip: move the decimal point, round up, and add half again to come up with approximately 15%. Well, for him it’s quick. For me, first I have to REMEMBER this formula. Then I have to recall which way to move the decimal point. I seem to manage the rounding up quite well, but then determining what half of that number is and then adding it to my rounded-off number … by this time, PG has told me how much it is in an exasperated voice and has already been to the bathroom and is now waiting for me in the car. (Note that he does not pay the bill himself. No, no. That would only give me more incentive to screw it up so that I would never have to pay. PG is too smart for that. Dammit.)

I have been known to blank out over mental calculations like 12 x 100. Yes. In front of children. Who try very hard not to laugh. I have counted, “5, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 50 …” I have tried to figure out in minutes the length of an activity that was given to me in hours, using 100 minutes to the hour (maybe I just think in metric?). I have gone to the airport and to a dance recital on the wrong day because I apparently can’t tell the difference between an “8” and an “18”. I have ruined recipes because I was incapable of properly doubling 1/4 to 1/2. ( I also don’t distinguish between baking POWDER and baking SODA. But that’s not math.)

The point is, numbers are not my best friends. But I can spot a spelling error at 50 paces!

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7 responses to “By the numbers

  1. Jazz – And what about “its” and “it’s” or “your” and “you’re”? How can people not know the difference?!?

  2. Oh god that annoys me. It’s CDs not CD’s!!!! I actually saw this in a novel the other day. Don’t they have freaking editors anymore?!?!?! I almost threw out the book in disgust.

  3. Hannah – Yep, I’m definitely a word person. In two languages, yet.

    Jazz – I’ll bet you are also a member of the elite club of people who know when to use the possessive “s” (‘s) as opposed to the plural “s”, aren’t you? There are so few of us …

    VioletSky – Right, I forgot to mention the counting on fingers thing. I do it too – and not always very discreetly.

    XUP – But it’s always nice to have company, isn’t it? Incompetent company, but company nonetheless.

  4. I broke out in a sweat just reading this post. It makes me really panicky when people can easily do things that I have no idea how to do. I don’t even understand what you were trying to explain here in this post.

  5. If I ever lost one of my fingers, I’d be screwed.

  6. God how I hate numbers. HATE EM!!!!

    I can learn a language, no problem, but I still count on my fingers. I’ve never been able to remember what 8×7 is and even when I’m paying Mr. Jazz figures the tip. And in Quebec, tax comes to 14%, so you just round up the tax a bit and bam, you have it. Problem is, I have trouble adding up the provincial and federal taxes correctly. I’m a total moron when it comes to numbers. But like you, no spelling error goes undetected and I know when to use a semi colon.

  7. I have also struggled with numbers and still do to an extent, but am hoping to get to at least a normal level with practice.:) I think people generally fall into one of two categories-1) Their good at logic and math or 2) They excel at arts/language.

    It sounds like you fall into the second camp, in the more right brain type people. 🙂