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