I’ve always liked math. I can’t narrow it down to one reason, but I think a big part of it is that it makes sense to me. Well, until I reached the math brink. (From dictionary.com, brink means “a crucial or critical point, esp. of a situation or state beyond which success or catastrophe occurs”- in this case, catastrophe) Everyone’s math brink is different, but everyone has one.
I remember starting at problems for my 400 level math classes having no idea what I was supposed to be proving, much less where to start. Hours of staring at various textbooks strained my eyes but did little to increase my understanding. And then in class- frantically writing down everything (not understanding any of it) and hoping that it might all of a sudden make sense later that day. That pretty much never happened.
Tutoring has given me some insight about other people’s math brink. Just when you start to get comfortable manipulating numbers and solving problems, these “x”s start creeping in. No big deal, x means multiplication… no? Now x is a number? You must be mistaken, I’m positive x is the 24th letter of the alphabet? Don’t even get me started on positive and negative- my first grade teacher said you can only subtract two numbers when a number is subtracted from a larger number! So she lied to me?!
And what’s with that “b”? That wasn’t there two steps ago. Sometimes it seems like mathematicians are more like magicians- making things disappear and appear at will! Where did that letter come from? How did they know that was the next step in the proof? Did they just decide it looked good? And what happened to that 14; it just disappeared. There it is in this step… and the line below, it’s gone. Where did it go?!
(Emphatic sigh) I just don’t like math! (more to come…)