Monday, April 26, 2010

The Fear of Math

Do you ever have one of those days where you feel boring and blah? Even to yourself? Yeah, that’s me this morning. I’ve tried tackling a couple different subjects for blogs…and can’t come up with anything.

Oh, I have the “topics” – but as I’m composing, I about as interested in my own writing as I was taking Statistics in college.

Statistics. Yuck. The mere word gives me the heebie-jeebies. That was one class that I would have been better off not taking, but I needed it to graduate. So I dutifully showed up at every class. I listened. I tried doing the homework. I sucked at taking the exams. But I knew I wasn’t going to get out of there unscathed when the instructor came up to me before the Final and asked me if I ever intended to use Statistics in any job I currently had or might possibly have in the future. I assured him that I wouldn’t. I think he might have made me sign something, but I can’t really remember that part.

So he said I didn’t need to bother taking the final. (I think I was the only graduating senior in his class that trimester and he didn’t want to make up a separate exam for me. He especially didn’t want to grade it, probably because he didn’t want to have to consider himself a failure as a teacher.) I won’t tell you my final grade, but let’s just say it was the worst grade I earned in my college career at two different universities – and I think he even bumped it up a bit out of mercy because otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to graduate cum laude.

When friends threw a surprise graduation party for me, one of my writing instructors showed up with a hardbound book titled “Everything I Ever Learned in Statistics,” by Jane Domian. Inside the book? Nothin’. Every page was blank. Ha ha.

Yeah, I have funny friends, don’t I?!

I’ve never liked anything to do with numbers. Could be nature and could be nurture. I’m stickin’ with nurture for now and I’m willing to blame my second grade teacher, Sister Lucy. Don’t get me wrong – I loved Sister Lucy…that is, until the day she introduced us to the Multiplication Tables. Sadist.

I was quite happy having learned Addition. Subtraction was a little tougher, but I was seven years old and I figured I’d taken the whole math thing just about as far as I could go with it.

I can’t be sure about this because, well, that was a lot of years ago, but I think I was unwell the day she tried to get us to wrap our little minds around 2 x 3. After introducing the concept to us, I must have had a completely bewildered look on my face because she called on me for the answer. I tried to skirt the issue entirely and give her the answer to 2 + 3. The answer “5” didn’t make her happy. But did she move on to another victim, er, student? Nooo. If she had, it might have changed the entire direction of my life and I could, at this moment, be some Math Whiz earning big bucks in the Math Industry.

Clearly, I’m not.

But back to second grade and my mean teacher, Sister Lucy. Near panic, my next answer was “2.” Obviously wrong. (Wait a sec…let me get out my calculator. Okay, yes, that was wrong!)

I jest. I mean, now I know the answer.

Anyway, Sister Lucy was getting mad and I was near tears. So she gave me one final try – and I answered “3,” which earned me an immediate trip out to the hall to stand in the corner.

It was the only time in my entire life that I was ever sent out into the hall to stand in a corner and it probably scarred me for life. I was as pissed off and upset as any second grader you ever saw. When she finally let me back in the class, I wouldn’t look at her or talk to her for a long time. Probably 10 minutes in second grader time, which is a really long time.

Anyway, I truly don’t know how I learned multiplication after that traumatic experience, but as the years passed by, whenever a new math concept was introduced I went into panic mode and started fearing corners.

So see? It’s no wonder that years later (decades, even) Statistics completely went over my head.

I don’t even really like talking about Math – so I guess it’s sort of appropriate when I’m having a blah and boring day.

And to my Statistics instructor, whose name I no longer remember? I haven’t used Statistics even once. You’re welcome.

1 comment:

  1. GREAT blog, Jane!!! Just loved reading it!! Oh by the way - Daniel can really relate - he is behind you 100 % :-) keep your blogs coming - they make my day!!