Living With Mathlexia
Hello, my name is Natalie and I’m Mathlexic*. To me, math is a four-letter word. Is it because my brain is just too filled up with a love of literature? More importantly: Can book worms even be math nerds?
As a kid, I adored math and was even crowned Number Facts champion of 5th grade. I lived for timed tests on multiplication and division but didn’t realize I was a big fish in a small math pond.
Things started getting dicey in middle school and by high school merely mentioning Algebra gave me hives. Learning that my beloved alphabet had defected into my math problems left me reeling. My pea brain processed a simple equation thusly:
x-13y(4n-17) is equal to…what the hell’s going on here?! Where did these letters come from? Someone pass me the Benadryl!
10th grade was worse–Geometry and theorems. Euclid, you’re the devil! Algebra II was the stuff of my 11th (and 12th) grade nightmares, but a saintly guidance counselor showed a shred of mercy by enrolling me into the ‘special’ class that took two years to cover Algebra II and Trigonometry. The class was filled with avid readers and kids from the AP English track.
Maybe it’s all the rules, principles, and formulas–I’m more of a free spirit and the rigidity of math scares me–I feel hemmed in by the structure. I love the ambiguity of English–if I can support my answer, then it’s valid!
All of my math teachers grossly misstated the truth (read: lied) when they said I’d use Algebra, Trigonometry, and Geometry in my daily life. I swear that there is a giant PR campaign behind that myth and even the math teachers in my school continue to perpetuate it. I can honestly say that I’ve never called on the Pythagorean theorem since I left school!
Lest you think me a dope, assured that I can compute percentages in my head in nanoseconds and can do any word problem you throw at me (without using inane formulas!). I just can’t wrap my head around ‘math with letters.’ It’s a thorn in my side because I hate to admit defeat and want to understand Algebra, Geometry, and Calculus!
To that end, I recently placed an order on Amazon and needed to spend $2.14 more to get free shipping. I found an Algebra workbook for $2.15 and purchased it, hoping against hope that math might come easier to me as an adult.
The workbook arrived this week and my hypothesis proved false: Math, unlike wine, does not get better (or easier) with age.
*Please don’t take offense at my word choice–I’m not trying to denigrate anyone with a learning disability.