Monday, July 25, 2005


I found this in an old cardboard box full of text books:

In college I was an English major and the only math class I took was "Excursions into Mathematics." With that title I was fully expecting the Letter People to pop out and help me with my homework. I think my problem with math is that it is wholly illogical. I say that in the face of nearly unanimous opposition.

Logic is based on math, they say. The entire universe is quantifiable and predictable because the language of mathematics so accurately displays all of its qualities, they say. Well, yeah there is that, but for me math stopped making sense in elementary school.

It started off making perfect sense. I got a little barrel of plastic bears. They were multicolored and slightly resembled gummi bears, except that they were too hard for me to chew. Not that Iwas the one who thought they were too hard to chew. I was sure that with a couple of hours and a healthy supply of saliva I could at least get some molar marks in them but my teacher assured me in a most reasonable voice that the intended purpose of these bears was not chewing. She told me that one bear plus one bear was equal to two bears. I was a little mistrustful of her on that one because she had just tried to take bearchewing out of my life, but I thought I would give it a try. If it didn't work maybe she would see that math is not the intended use for these after all, and in the lack of alternatives, chewing could resume. So I spit out one bear and then I spit out one bear. I counted each to make sure that the number didn't change. One and One. I pushed them together, wiped my hand off and counted. One-two. There were now two bears! I gasped and then choked as what felt like eight bears tried to go down my throat. I quickly spit all eight of those trouble makers out and raised my hand. The teacher called on me.

"It works." I said, "It really works one bear plus one bear equals two bears!"
"What?" she said, "Don't talk with your mouth full."

When they took away the bears math stopped making sense. Once they took away the bears I was left with an enigma. "One plus one equals two," they tried to tell me.
"One what? Two whats?" I asked
"Oh, one unit, two units"

Do you see where it gets confusing? If you don't define what you are "plussing" then you can't be sure of the result. One what plus one what does not always equal two whats. One man plus one woman will eventually equal three, or four, or more. One half plus one half equals one! How can you add whats?

Then you get to algebra and they tell you A + B = C. A whats plus B whats equals C whats? Now you don't even know how many whats you are adding together!


Blogger Radont said...

I feel your pain my friend.

9:26 AM, April 26, 2006  

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