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.