Math is Hard, But . . .

I was a creative writing major in college. I chose my major by going through the course catalog and circling all of the classes I wanted to take. (Emory & Henry is a small school.) Then I figured out which major I would end up with if I took them.

And it wasn’t just about taking all of those great English classes. It was also about avoiding all of the math classes. I spent most of my school career avoiding math classes. At the risk of reinforcing a stereotype, I thought math was hard. I took my final math class my Junior year of high school and I never looked back.

So I’ve been surprised this semester to discover how much I enjoy math.

My 13-year-old son is in Algebra I. He is a bright kid. But all things considered, he’d rather sit on our couch and stare at the wall than do his math homework. And when he does it he likes to do it fast.

Thus my husband and I find it prudent to check his work and encourage corrections as necessary. So basically, I’m re-taking Algebra I—and it’s great.

I love to find the value of x. Step by step. Add. Subtract. Multiply. Divide. There is a rhythm and a symmetry that soothes a harried mind.

Tonight we were finding means, medians, modes, and ranges. I found it quite satisfying to take the chaos of numbers and put them in order; to simplify the jumble of numbers into a single, meaningful quantity.

And here is the kicker. When I do a math problem, my answer is right! Or it’s wrong. But it is most definitely one or the other.

This is a simplicity that I do not have in my two primary roles of pastor and mother.

My sermons aren’t right or wrong. They are faithful—or not. And that’s much harder to gauge.

My discipline strategies aren’t right or wrong. They are effective—or ineffective. And sometimes the same strategy has different results each time I use it.

Helping my son with his math provides an unexpected and welcome relief from the fine lines and ambiguities that occupy nearly all of my other activities.

Don’t get me wrong. If I had college to do over again, I would still be a creative writing major. But maybe I’d sit in on an algebra class–just for the sake of my sanity.

6 thoughts on “Math is Hard, But . . .

    • Hi Michael. It’s hard to say how much of my math aversion was because of teachers. I had one absolutely terrible math teacher and several that I liked a lot. Glad to know some kids in Australia have a passionate teacher like you.

  1. Oh my gosh, Joanna! I did the same thing. I went through the E&H catalog, looked at all the courses I wanted to take and chose religion because a) it had the most interesting (to me) courses AND b) I didn’t have to take a math course. My husband (with a PhD in MATH) finds that absolutely horrifying.

    • Patti, that’s too funny. Great minds . . . right? My husband is just as math-averse as me, thus me getting to help with the math homework.

  2. You almost make me want to go right over to Southwestern College and sign up for a math class–almost! Love this post. It makes so much sense. I do need to find something that I can do that’s either right or wrong, with nothing in between. There’s so much in-betweeness. So, thanks for the words of wisdom this morning.

    • Good morning, Mom. I think what you really need is something else–like a math class–to add to your schedule 🙂 Glad you liked the post. See you soon.

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