Wednesday, February 3, 2010

We Interrupt This Blog To Bring You....Math

I feel like I should start this blog posting off by apologizing to every teacher that ever tried to teach me math.

See, I was a horrible student in school. My grades were good (with the exception of math) but I have to admit that I didn't put a great deal of effort into 90% of my schooling. I was the kid in the back of the class only half paying attention because I was reading a book hidden under my desk or because I was just daydreaming. About the only exception to my goofing off was any math class.

I'm a writer and a one-time English major. Math just didn't translate into the way I saw the world. I had to actually work hard in some of those classes just to have a passing grade. A "C" was a cause for celebration. A "B" or an "A" was almost unheard of and accomplished only with stacks of extra credit. Where the histories and sciences (except chemistry, which is just math in disguise) and English classes all came naturally, math was like being taught how to speak in a foreign language by someone who only spoke that language and not English. It just didn't translate into something I understood.

Now, nearly six years after receiving my associate's degree from Dabney, I have a job that's purely math surveying. Everything we do here, from the field work to the drafting, is based on algebra, geometry and calculus, maybe even some trig. Once in a blue moon I'll be working on a project and a light bulb clicks on above my head because something I learned in high school and thought I had forgotten comes back to me and actually makes sense.

Just this morning, after battling the elements to make it into the office, I spent a couple hours calculating the grade of a slope using algebra I learned as a freshman. All that talk about slopes and rise over run didn't make a bit of sense then. Seeing it applied out in the world brought it all together for me.

I'm still not a person who looks at the world and puts math on it and probably never will be, but when the situation calls for it I can figure it out with a little help now. So all those times I shrugged off math because I thought that I'd "never use it outside of school" now seem a bit ironic. I earn my bread money by doing math every day.

Somewhere, I'm sure, my former math teachers are having a nice laugh about that.

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