Math and I share a complicated relationship. One defined by non-existence.
It’s a common complaint by many: i just don’t get numbers, I can’t do math.
But it’s more than just a complaint for me, it’s a legit fact, as factual as those horrendous equations I never understood the point of. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure math is great. There are many people i know who excel at it and think it’s the bee’s knees. I look at these people, these Russel-Crowe-A-Beautiful-Mind types, with awe and respect. They can decipher numbers and functions and matrices and all that jazz. Good for them. Kudos to them. Let’s give em all a big cookie.
It’s the complete opposite for me. I was 6 when we moved to Canada, went into grade 2 and, for a while there, I was the “smart kid.” Okay, I’ll stop being modest, I was pretty smart at school, but I think it had a lot to do with the fact that the intensity of what was taught at school in Canada was nowhere near the stuff I had been learning before. It’s pretty ironic; in Grade 2, I remember being grouped with a couple other kids (brown, obvs) and given stuff like long division to do because what the rest of the class was doing was just not challenging enough. Things continued in this vein for a while, another 5 years till grade 8 and then BOOM! We moved to Dubai and I was stupid again.
Geometry, algebra, multiple choice quizzes and tests every week! The dramatic shift in what I was learning and how I had to learn it was unsettling. Gone was the emphasis on personal development and creative growth through fun projects, and in was adopting a new way of memorising as much information as possible. It took ages for me to catch up with what everyone else was doing. The school I went to, there was no such thing as a stupid person, academically. While there was no encouragement to develop your personality or figure out where your strengths lay, there was plenty of pressure to outdo yourself and those around you in every quiz. I remember distinctly liking science at school in Canada (experiments ftw!); fast forward a couple of years in Dubai and I’d developed a deep abhorrence for anything formulaic. At college, I cried great big tears of misery after the calculus midterm. Needless to say, I did not do too well on that course. I wonder now if my mental block towards Math & Science (yes, to me they form one big, evil union together) was merely a result of the change in learning environment.
Perhaps, it’s not an inherent quality lacking in me that prevents me from grasping such concepts now as well as I used to. Had I maybe stayed in Canada and continued school there, I wouldn’t tear up now at the sight of numbers. There is the obvious flip side to this argument as well: loads of kids who went to the same school I did flourished at all things math-y and science-y, including others like me who’s moved to Dubai from Canada. Whatever the reason may be, the fact remains: I’m no good at that stuff. Furthermore, I have no particular interest in trying to be. I have my words.
I’d often wonder aloud in class when I’d ever need to use the Pythagoras Theorem later on in life. Five years out of high school, my thoughts remain as they were. Numbers and formulas are great at helping you figure out how something works, but words can elucidate why. So, to conclude with a fancy justification of my weakness, my strength lies not in thinking of the “how” of life, but rather the “why”.