Night Reader

I grew up surrounded by books. I became an English major, and I’m even trying to write my own.

This weekend, I spent a whole night discussing books with a great friend. A whole night.

And it all comes down to one turning moment in my life: my parents read to me. I wrote my college essay on the beauty of my Dad coming up to my sister and me’s bedroom and bringing the book we picked together from the library only days before. Whether it was Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew, my Dad always read to us at least a little every night to give our mom a break. And when our eyes started to flutter close, he would check on us to see if we were still listening. And the next night, he would inevitably have to go back and reread parts that we had missed.

I can’t say anything about my math skills. Maybe if I had rehearsed my timetables at night, I would be better. But I can say I’m a good reader.

So, if you do anything for your kids, make sure you read to them. They won’t forget it, and neither will you.



Do Your Job So I Can Do Mine

Okay, I’m going to do some math tonight.

Now, that should set off some alarm bells in your head. The size of the bells of Notre Dame, to be honest. Because I’m not a math person. Therefore, I should not be doing any math of any kind, even under pretend circumstances. But humor me. (Hope your funny bone is the size of your femur).

So, basically the world has this equation to determine if you are doing what you should be doing with your life. It’s simple: direct societal contribution + deliverable good  = your job.

Now, think about it. For example, you have an architect. What does he or she contribute to society? Places to work, eat, and sleep by building structures. What does he or she deliver? Those buildings, more opportunities for revenue, etc. That’s a one-to-one relationship, if I’m not mistaken.

Now, think about another job. A professional dancer, let’s say. (The math is going to get significantly harder, here.) What’s the societal contribution? Beautiful art. Sadly, not enough people seem to appreciate this societal contribution or consider it as such. What’s a deliverable good from a professional dancer? Well, it certainly isn’t tangible. But professional dancers create memories for their audiences. Visual interpretations of what a piece of music is “saying.” More art.

Not exactly the most straightforward equation. So, many people look at a professional dancer’s career and see this: 0 + 0 = 0. Which isn’t the correct math (even if my own math is not always sound).

Now, I have no grudges against architects. I don’t hold anything against professional dancers, either. But when professional dancers are forced to become architects because society sees value in architects but not professional dancing, then we start to have a problem.

Because this happens all of the time. Professional dancers, and other people who don’t fit into the stark equation outlined above, think that their passion cannot sustain their lifestyle. In many cases, they are right. Since society doesn’t value their contributions or deliverable goods because their careers do not benefit society as obviously as other professions (see above equation, again), they are told to pursue other things. Then, their passion is thwarted, and we get lifeless accountants who were supposed to be painters, we have frustrated attorneys who were meant to be novelists, and yes, we have jaded architects who were meant to be professional dancers. We get people who are displacing themselves to make a living, which then, in turn, displaces the people who really wanted to be accountants, attorneys, and architects.

Which brings me back to my original point. I should never, ever do math. I’ve never been good at it. Even trying to double recipes is difficult for me. I’m a writer. I like words, not numbers. Which is not to say people can’t like both. I’m just not one of those magical, incredibly talented people.

The point is, I should not be forced to find a job that is outside of my realm of expertise simply because society doesn’t think I can make a real societal contribution or deliverable good from writing.

Basically, you should do what you want to do, no matter what. Because if you can’t follow your passion, then things won’t really add up for you, no matter how (badly) you do the math.

The 5 Types of Math Problems

You use math everyday. Whether you are calculating the tip for your bill, deciding how many square feet of carpet your living room will need, or, of course, subtracting the number of pineapples you have when you give a few to your friend (a totally relevant conundrum for anyone.)

Of course, no one is denying that math is an important part of our life. We wouldn’t have buildings, businesses, or blogs without it. But instead of the vast world of equations and shapes that math teachers preach about, the value of the X-value, many non-math people see another dimension, one of anxiety and confusion. I mean, we call them math problems for a reason.

So, instead of the hundreds of combinations that can be made from thousands of numbers, there are only about 5 types of math problems for non-math people, and I will be taking you through them tonight. Even if you are a math whiz, I can promise you that you’ve seen a couple of these before, and I can bet that you will be seeing them again. (Unless you are out of high school, then you don’t need to worry about literally any of this.)

1. That Word Problem That Escalates Really Quickly

-Have you ever been reading a word problem (If you have four apples, and…), and it suddenly just … (YOU MAKE CIDER ON A TRAIN THAT IS GOING 50 MPH THAT PASSES A MACY’S, HOW OLD IS YOUR BABY COUSIN?) Yeah. You’re not alone. For whatever reason, word problems are not satisfied with just being in math. They have to use numbers in word form to confuse us non-math people even further. In school, I always approached word problems as such: Hmm, a math problem made out of words? I got this. Then promptly cried in a corner when I got to the end of the paragraph-long equation and still had no idea what to do. I’m fairly certain that word problems want to take over the math world. They are pretty insane, after all.

2. The Problem That Goes On Forever

-There’s always that problem that is so complicated that you can’t even figure out where to start. It looks more like an excerpt from pi than a math problem:

43824839284390284392433424 + 3388 – 48394839444 x 33333339

And then there is always the helpful directions on top: Solve.

Solve??? Solve what!? You got yourself into that mess of numbers, math. Get yourself out.

3. The Problem That Is Easy Until You Look At The Possible Answers

-This is probably the most common problem for me. It goes something like this:

Solve. 2 + 2 = ?

Wow, a math problem I know the answer to. Now, I just need to—

A. 134  B. -43  C. 338938  D. 1

And then the panic sets in. I don’t see my answer. What did I do wrong?! This looked so simple…I guess I will just go with A because it has my answer in it…

But really, what is that about? Isn’t math hard enough without trying to pull the carpet out from under me? It already has pulled the wool over my eyes…

4. The Problem That Would Never Apply In Real Life

-Okay, okay. I admit that whenever I see a problem regarding perimeter or area, I must confess that I wish I knew a little bit more about math so I could apply it later in life. Because perimeter and area are sort of relevant. Yet, those problems are typically substituted with ones that ask me to graph a point on my expensive graphing calculator that I will only use for the rest of my senior year in high school and then bury in my underwear drawer.  Really, though. Have you ever been asked about the coordinate plane ever again? How about the quadratic formula? Tan, sin, cosin? No??? What a big, fat surprise. Now, that we’ve established we will never use this stuff, can we stop being tortured with it?

5. That Problem That Isn’t A Problem At All

-Sort of like the word problem, almost all math problems aren’t really problems at all due to their complete absurdity. If we all agree that what a triangle will look like when it is reflected over the y-axis does not really matter, we could be finished with all of this math nonsense. I mean, who CARES when the train will make it into the station if it is traveling 70 miles an hour? No amount of money will make me curious about what will happen when I give 10 avocados to my friends when I have 12 pounds of them left. That’s really the short and long of it, and there is no need to convert the measurements.

In the end, all I can hope is that the people who understand math will help the people who are a few equal signs short of an equation.

Thanks for letting me add my two cents, even though I can’t actually add two cents together.