ON THIS, PI DAY and the International Day of Mathematics, I openly admit that I dislike math. I’ve never been good with numbers, never got the early intervention in grade school to help me with the dreaded fractions and other math challenges. And let’s not even discuss how much I disliked word problems. Reflecting as an adult, those problems seem particularly useful in everyday mathematics application. But back in the day, I could not wrap my brain around solving them. And back in the day, my school did not offer extra help to students struggling in any subject.
Moving into junior high school, my dislike of math only intensified. One particular math teacher, who shall go unnamed, scared me to death. He would call students to the blackboard to solve math equations. Talk about intimidating, terrifying and humiliating for those of us who were not good in math, but which he expected to be good in math because, hey, he was. I hope teachers no longer do that—call students to the front of the class to solve math problems.
Then came high school and the dreaded, required algebra. That I made it through that class without failing is still almost incomprehensible. Again, my brain could not understand what letters and exponents had to do with numbers. To this day, I don’t get it and I’m all too happy to leave algebra back in the early 1970s.
Thankfully, the next generations have not inherited my math deficiencies. My son holds a math minor to supplement his computer science degree. And my two grandchildren excel in math. The first grader is in an advanced math class. I can ask Isabelle to solve a math equation well beyond what a nearly 7-year-old should know and I can almost see her brain spinning as she pops out the answer, boom, just like that.
Isaac, who recently turned four, shows the same developing math strengths. When he stayed with us last week, he was writing digital time in squares across sheets of paper. He started with 1:00, finished at 1:59 and then started with 2:00, reaching 2:59. Early on, he was fascinated by my wristwatch, which I often removed from my arm and slipped onto his. He also liked my vintage alarm clock collection and our wall clock. But mostly, Isaac simply loves numbers.
That their dad, Marc, holds a math degree and works as an actuary likely factors into the grandkids’ math interests and skills. I am grateful they won’t struggle with math like their grandma did all through school.
And then there’s my sister-in-law Rosie, a retired math teacher. No questioning that she loves math.
But me? Nope. Math-lovers may be celebrating Pi Day today (what does “pi” even mean?), but not me. I’d rather have the pie you can eat, thank you.
TELL ME: Are you good in math? Do you like math? Did you have any experiences like mine in school?
© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling