Jack’s Wednesday guest post finally managed to get out on Wednesday –
I used to joke that I must have been frightened by a math teacher as a child, because I’ve all my life had a problem with numbers. Not basic arithmetic, I hasten to add; I’ve never had a problem with that and it has been enough for me to get by – mostly.
I left primary school at the age of eleven with a perfectly confident attitude to numbers based on my excellent score in the ‘qualifying exam’ that put me straight into the top class at the local high school.
That’s when the problem started. Algebra raised its ugly head and each year I dropped further down the range of classes. It was math that was skewing everything else I was doing and I finally left school at the age of sixteen with no qualifications at all, despite enjoying English, French, Art and History.
During the ensuing five years of a painting and decorating apprenticeship I attended the local college, where I found that I could attend evening classes to get the qualifications I’d missed out on at high school. So I finally got Higher English and – wait for it – Arithmetic.
Skipping along a good few years, I went on to teach construction calculation to generations of painting apprentices, which only required facility in arithmetic. I developed a particular ability to ‘connect’ with students who had also experienced the same difficulties as I had. All went well until a few years before I retired, when I was prevailed upon by the college Principal to study for an MBA. Because I had no previous degree level qualification I had to sit two entrance tests – one in verbal reasoning and the other in math. I got the highest score they had ever recorded in verbal reasoning and a measly 30% in math! They allowed me in, but with misgivings about my ability to handle the math.
There I met my old enemy algebra again. Worse, his obsessive-compulsive second cousin dominated the course: Statistics – STATISTICS!!
I finished the whole program in time to retire (taking Stats twice along the way) and then Wendy and I moved to the States and opened a bookstore.
So now I do percentages, and tax equations and amortizations and – wait for it – market share statistics for the bookstore, our Celtic Festival, Wendy’s cat rescue, and other fun life events. It’s different, somehow, when it’s about real life. Not just numbers in a classroom. That’s precisely how I taught calculation to my painting students, come to think of it.
What were the odds that I would end up using all that math I learned? Actually, I know how to calculate that….