The other day my mom called to tell me that she met a guy at her office who graduated from Wake Forest the same year I did. She said she asked him some questions about himself to see if he and I had ever “crossed paths” while we were in school together, and when she told me that he was a math major I just laughed hysterically because I knew that the answer to that question was a resounding “no”.
Ever since I was 12 years old math has been the bane of my existence. And I’m not exactly sure why that is. All I know is that up until that point I did just fine in math, with no kind of math inferiority complex whatsoever. Then my family moved to another state, and somehow in that move I lost my ability to do math.
It’s just so weird. I mean, it’s not like the time I had to take 4 migraine pills in one 24-hour period and subsequently lost the ability to put on my own pajama pants without my husband’s assistance. In that situation I could clearly pinpoint the exact cause of that loss of ability.
But with my math ability it was more like, “Oh, yeah, the movers forgot to pack that, and so when the new owners moved into your old house they found your lost ability to do math and threw it out with the rest of the trash.”
None of this was helped by the fact that for the last 3 years of high school I had a math teacher who was absolutely convinced that I was some kind of math superstar (because my mom was also a math teacher), and who remained steadfast in this belief despite what I, personally, considered to be staggering amounts of evidence to the contrary. And so she spent all of her free time badgering me to join the math team, which I clearly would never do, because it involved spending more time doing math.
She would have been much better off pursuing my brother, who is currently finishing his Ph.D. in organic chemistry and who routinely calls my mom to ask for her help with math problems like this:
“Imagine that the Universe is a sheet of paper. Then, crumple the paper up into a little ball. Then uncrumple it. How do you now mathematically track the behavior of all of the vectors in that field?”
That is, of course, an excellent question. But I think that the more important question here is, “Why exactly would anyone actually need to know that particular piece of information?” If the Universe suddenly got crumpled up in a ball and accidentally dropped into some kind of cosmic trash can, is our first priority really going to be WORD PROBLEMS?
Now of course I am married to an engineer which is wonderful, because he is In Charge Of Math. And in exchange for being able to abdicate all mathematical responsibilities, I am willing to put up with a few things. Like the time that we were playing a dice game and suddenly had to suspend all play while we calculated the exact probability of getting a certain roll. Or the time when we were driving to the beach, and every thirty minutes I had to record new data in a special little notebook so that we could pinpoint the exact miles per hour that would give us the best possible gas mileage. Or the fact that, occasionally, he is inspired to turn events from our daily lives into random math problems for us to solve. Just. For.Fun.
But that is a small price to pay in order to be free from math. Because, truthfully, the only math problem I have ever been able to solve successfully is this one:
If Jenny is forced to work on a math problem, how many minutes will it take before she erupts like Mt. Vesuvius and begins to spew forth hot ash and molten floods of lava onto her surrounding environment?
Answer: Not Very Many