Tag Archives: Math

Why I never want the learning curve to go flat

I love learning new things, and sometimes re-learning old ones. I’d like nothing better than to go back to school full time and take a bunch of math classes, and not let math kick me in the butt this time. I’d take more chemistry, and biochem, and organic chem, and extraterrestrial chem. And I’d take every art history and art appreciation course I could find; and anthropology and philosophy and physics. And languages. I’d get a PhD or three. Just for fun.

And I want to read almost every book that comes out, especially if it’s about science. I know I’ll never get through even half of them, but I want to give it a shot. I never want to stop putting new knowledge into my brain. And I never want to get complacent about what I already know. And so I’ll never turn into my dad.

I know a lot of people who think I’m nuts for wanting to go back to school — for even considering it. That doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t bother me that a lot of people don’t like to read — who think they had to do too much reading when they were in school and they’re done with that. That’s a completely legitimate reason not to do something. That’s how I feel about ironing — that I did enough ironing as a kid in school ironing my uniform blouses, and later in the Air Force ironing everything that wasn’t tied down. Unfortunately, I have to iron some of the shirts I wear to work now because I no longer have a job where I can wear jeans and tee-shirts, darn it. I am working on finding shirts that don’t require as much ironing as some that I have. I would gladly stop completely, so I can relate to anyone who doesn’t want to do something that they find unpleasant.

But I watched my dad slowly lose his mind, and I don’t want that to happen to me. He wanted to live to be 100, and he got pretty damn close. But he thought he could do it just sitting on the couch watching re-runs of “Walker, Texas Ranger,” and claiming he was “too old” for other activities or learning new things.

I will not will not will not let that happen to me. And so I’ve already started back to school — part-time — and I’ve already taken one math class. In summer school. One whole semester in five weeks. I made a “B” dammit! I’ve never made that high a grade in math in my life, and I’m pretty frakking proud of it. And last night at work when a student asked me for some help with one of her algebra problems, I was able to show her a function she could use on her graphing calculator that she didn’t know about. Two months ago I could use a graphing calculator to add, subtract, multiply, and divide, and waste everything else it is capable of. Now I know a few more of those uses. But there are a lot more I have yet to discover.

And I’m just like that calculator.

Catching up, looking back

My preoccupation lately has been with making things rather than writing things, which isn’t entirely a bad thing, even though I’ve been thinking things that I could be writing about. But sometimes it’s just hard to put down the Sculpey, or the paintbrush; or I’ve already been sitting at the computer for what feels like a long time, and I have to jump and run do something else.

When I was growing up, my three burning ambitions were to be an artist, a veterinarian, or a writer. Or all three. Well, the vet thing was the first to crash and burn. I suck at math. But now I work at a “Learning Center,” and I have discovered the secret to my previous lack of success with math, and possibly the key to overcoming the huge sense of helplessness I feel when confronted with something like a quadratic equation. Not that I’ll be ready to tackle one of those any time in the immediate future, but I figured out why I was never even good at remembering my times tables, which I was supposed to memorize back in second or third grade. I was supposed to recite them. Out loud. Over and over. And over. And I never remembered them. I don’t learn through my ears. I learn through my eyes, and my hands. I should have been writing my times tables. Over and over. And writing out whatever additions I had to do to get past the places where I kept getting stuck, like anything greater than five, times anything greater than three. Yeah. I know.

I don’t know who figured out the different learning styles, or when, but when I was a kid, we were all expected to learn all the exact same things exactly the same way as everyone else. C’mon. Really? Who were these people who decided kids were all exactly the same? Aliens? It makes me mad that no one was enlightened enough to figure out that children, and adults, learn differently, and that I never figured out what I needed to do to make the most of my abilities. I just assumed I didn’t have those abilities. Sheesh. Just think what I could have been doing with my life.

Going on the assumption that it’s never too late, I’ve borrowed some old algebra books from the bookshelves at work, and am trying to fill in some of those gaps. It’s a pain in the butt, realizing I pretty much have to start with baby algebra and work my way up, and I practically have to copy over everything in the book. Just reading it isn’t sufficient. I have to write. I have to draw. I have to work problems. Lots of problems. I feel like I’m in third grade again. I guess that’s not so bad. I got my first puppy when I was in third grade. Something that changed my life for the better. Maybe this will, too.