Numbers, My Lifelong Nemeses

slugNumbers and I don’t get along. In fact, I hate math!

Okay, “hate” may be a strong word, but I have the same reaction when presented with a math problem that I would if a slug was plopped before me: “Eew! Yuck! Run away!”

Put words and letters in front of me, and I can play all day. For some reason, numbers just don’t register well in my brain. I’ve had people blame it on the educational system (which is not fair) and tell me I’m numerically dyslexic (is that a real thing?). Whatever it may be, it has meant that numbers have always been an effort for me.

I admire people who do well in math. In high school, I had a friend who did calculus problems for fun! I even read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. Didn’t understand much of it, but what I did was intriguing.

I’ve tried Sudoku, the really easy ones, and been stymied. Yet I love doing crossword puzzles, especially the New York Times’s Sunday ones. (Sure, it takes me several days and a dictionary, and I never do it in pen.)

“We get the message,” you’re thinking, “but this is supposed to be a blog about writing.”

Well, it’s also a blog about learning. The point is that, when I hear someone say, “I hate writing,” I can emphasize. But that’s not an excuse to avoid honing writing skills.

I worked hard (really, really hard) to pass algebra, geometry, and (gag) trigonometry in high school. Physics also presented a challenge. I confess that most of that stuff I forgot very quickly, mostly because I don’t use it.

On the other hand, ask me a percentage or how to adjust a recipe, and I can pretty much do that in my head. The mathematical functions that I need have stuck with me.

For instance, if the news reports that my property tax rate has increased five percent per thousand, you bet I can quickly calculate how much more that is going to add to my tax bill. I even calculated (after going through about a ream of paper) how much gravel I would need for a patio I’m planning to put in. When I’m driving long distances, I try to do calculations in my head to keep me awake.

Sure, I can find a calculator online just as people can find paragraphs online they (illegally and unethically) copy and paste. But just like an athlete, my brain needs the exercise. Math helps me with organization and logic, so I force myself to do something that is useful but that I don’t like at all.

Do I get it right all the time? Heck, no! The last time my checkbook was balanced was in college when my accounting major roommate (now my dearest friend) decided to do it. Three hours later, completely mystified by my “system,” she succeeded but vowed never to try it again.

When it needs to be correct, I seek out a professional. I have an accountant do my income tax, but I try to organize my information as best I can before I hand it over.

The moral of this blog post is that, even though we feel frustrated and mystified by something, like writing, it is still valuable to make the effort to practice and improve it.

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