by KATE HUNTER
This morning, I was writing out my kids’ tuckshop bags and called out to my nine year old, ‘Annabel, what’s $2.30 plus $3.80?’ My tone was that of an engaged parent, trying to incorporate simple arithmetic into everyday life.
My husband knew the truth, ‘You don’t know, do you?’
Just in the nick of time, Annabel called out, ‘Six dollars ten.’
‘Exactly right, well done! Six dollars ten.’
My accountant husband set off for work, amazed that someone like me ever got as far as high school.
And yet, I did. Hating maths every step of the way.
Now, hate is a strong word and I discourage my children from using it. But I hate maths with a passion and if it were possible to commit hate crime against algebra, I would do so.
Why do I hate it so much? Was I taught badly? Was I lazy? Is it just the way I’m made? I don’t know, but I’m deeply resentful of the time I spent doing maths when I could have been reading books; or preparing my history assignment; or arguing with Sister Maree about the existence of God. ANYTHING but understanding Pi. Surely that was what Sister Maree’s God invented calculators for.
It’s hard, sometimes, being a writer married to an accountant. For him, numbers make sense. They speak a language that’s clear – unambiguous – exactly what I can’t stand. It’s why I switched off in maths pretty much after I learned to count to ten. I’m good at that, check it out – I’ve used those skills to list the reasons I hate the subject.
1. With maths, you’re either right or you’re wrong. You can’t argue your way out of an incorrect answer. This is something I rely upon to get through life.
2. Numbers cannot make you laugh. Unless you put 58008 into a calculator and turn it upside down to make ‘BOOBS’.
3. Numbers cannot make you cry. Well, they can if your ATM receipt isn’t what you expected, but maths is so … clinical.
4. You can’t make them up. I make up words all the time. My favourite is ‘nunce’ as in, I’ve been to ‘Adelaide twice, Darwin once but Perth, nunce.’
5. Maths teachers seemed angrier than all others. Including PE teachers and I was rubbish at that too.
6. There is always someone around to do your maths for you. I was especially grateful when Woollies introduced unit pricing.
7. The rules for maths CHANGE. I did, (oddly and disastrously) try to help my son with his long division but they now do it a completely weird way. Why? Why?
8. Apparently, the ‘really fun’ part of maths (i.e. algebra) doesn’t even use numbers! Really? That’s like saying the best part of cooking doesn’t involve food.
9. There seems to be no middle ground with maths. You’re either a maths person or you’re not. It’s unwelcoming. Exclusive. It doesn’t reach out.
10. I can recite Dorothea McKellar’s I Love A Sunburnt Country by heart. But not if you offered me a million dollars can I do my seven times table from memory – it has zero entertainment value. No times table has ever been recited around a campfire.
Don’t get me wrong. I might be mathsist (new word) but I believe maths has a right to exist and the world needs people who understand it. Hell, I married one – that’s not the only reason, but someone has to crunch the numbers but I’m glad my mind loves words more than digits. I think life would be harder the other way around.
Kate Hunter is an advertising copywriter with over 20 years experience and one Gruen Transfer appearance to her name. Kate is also the author of theMosquito Advertising series of novels – The Parfizz Pitch, The Blade Brief and The Crunch Campaign, which see a bunch of Australian kids start their own advertising agency. You can buy them here.
What speaks to you? Words, numbers, pictures? Or a little bit of everything?
Should maths be taught differently for boys and girls? Join the debate over at our sister site iVillage.com.au here.