I’m good at math. It may take me an hour or two longer to catch onto a new mathematical concept than it does for me to grasp anything else that is poured into my brain, but I do eventually grasp it and memorize it and regurgitate it successfully on a test in order to get A’s. I can do math when I try, therefore I am good at it.
Excuse me while I laugh hysterically at that last paragraph.
Yeah, that’s not being good at math.
Being good at math is comprehending equations and functions and derivatives and understanding what they are and why they exist and what their purpose in life is. Being good at math is being able to learn a simple concept and then take that simple concept and use it in order to figure out a complex, mind-boggling equation. Being good at math is being able to sleep through your basic, college-level calculus class and still get an A.
In other words, being good at math is not being me.
I’ve just always been a person who never understood math for what it was. Yes, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus were all able to be memorized and “mastered,” but they were never able to be understood. No one ever sat me down and explained in simple, average-human-being (and not I’m-Albert-Einstein-e-equals-m-c-squared) terms what math is and why I’m doing it and why it must be done this way and why this theorem will always prove to be true, etc. No one ever broke it down for me, gave me logic to grab on to and remember it by. It was always just, “Here’s the equation. Here’s the steps to solve it. Now go do it.” And for a person who only learns by truly knowing why something is the way it is, that just never works for me.
Learning like this has made me hate math and struggle with the basic concepts. Math homework that would take my sister 20 minutes would take me 40. I just couldn’t do it without thinking hard and long in order to try to bring some reason to it.
And that’s why there’s hatred: I can’t find reason. I hate not knowing things. Granted, there are subjects in life that I’ve realized I will never know, but if something (such as math) is proven at some point to somehow be true and factual, then I just need to know how exactly it is!
A lot of you right now might be thinking, “Um, but math makes perfect sense. It is logical and factual and absolute. How can you not get it when it is what it is, when it is absolutely true?”
I honestly can’t answer you with anything that I haven’t already stated other than this: My brain does not work that way. Nothing for me can ever be simply true. I question everything. My world is not black or white; it is every shade of grey in between. If someone asks me to pick a place to eat for dinner, we will not be eating that night, for there are just too many possibilities and too many options and too many things that can go wrong if I happen to pick such-and-such place and we get there at such-and-such time. Likewise, if someone asks me for their advice, we will be there for seven hours while I talk them through every single option, deeply consider all of the options I have just presented, and then finally decide what I think the best thing for that person to do is. I just can’t jump into anything full speed ahead. I have to sit and think and fully understand every aspect and consequence and angle and decision and outcome before finally deciding and being comfortable with said decision. Grey. I am truly grey.
Maybe that’s why I aspire to be a journalist.
With that being said, I can’t have someone tell me, “Yes, it is this way and no other way because it just is,” and then simply accept it. It is in my nature to question, to wonder why, to not accept the black or white. There’s always grey. I always see the grey. And, unfortunately, that’s a very uncommon trait–especially for math brains, which is why math professors never go out of their way to explain the grey to you. To them, the world is black and white. Being told “it just is” is more than enough reason to agree and understand.
And then there’s me, sitting at my desk, brow furrowed, thinking, But what if it isn’t? It’s human-created and human discovered, so what if it isn’t? How can we ever be sure, even with proofs? What if we’re doing all of this wrong?!?!
Basically, what I’m trying to say is that my genetic makeup doesn’t allow for me to understand math. It’s either too convenient to be true or too complex to grasp without reson, which, in both cases, causes my brain to go crazy.
You see, one moment the equation is ridiculously hard and I have no idea how to solve it, so I panic and forget everything I was taught and get the answer wrong. But then the next second, the answer is so blatantly obvious that I think it’s impossible for it to be that easy (since the last was so complex), so I redo all of my original work to simply get the wrong answer, again, in the end anyways.
My logic fails me in math because no one has ever taught me math logic. My grey trumps the black-and-white, and I flounder in my thoughts.
Grey, grey, grey, grey, grey…
Here’s what I mean.
Consider the composite function f(x(g(c(q(t))))). This I understand. You take the function of t and put it inside the function of q. Then you take that and put it inside the function of c. Then you take that and put it in the function of g. Then you take that and put it in the function of x. And BAM! You’ve got a composite function.
That is absolute. It has a definition that clearly explains why each function would go inside of the next. It’s logical. It makes sense. There’s no grey.
But then there’s the whole divided by zero thing.
Yes, I get why they say an answer to x/0 does not exist. Technically, you can’t divide something by another thing if you don’t have another thing to divide it by. I totally understand that logic.
But then my brain says, if you have something and then divide it by nothing, you should still end up with what you started out with, for you had nothing to split it up by. Which means that it would have stayed exactly the same, just like dividing by one
So I am left inside my head to wonder, which one truly is it? Should x/0 be null, or x? Is math truly absolute, or are there some “proved” theorems that are actually wrong? Am I crazy, or am I actually on to something?
But no one ever answers that.
And that’s what makes me hate it!