Archives for Mathematics

Dieting

Research-Backed Resolutions

The more I read and think about  New Year's Resolutions, the less I think they accomplish a dingdang thing. I've made a lot of resolutions that have led me absolutely nowhere. Mostly, they make me feel bad because I tend not to follow-up. Oh sure, I'll get back on my eating/exercise program as soon as the holiday minefield of homemade pound cake and mint M&Ms is behind us, but that's more about returning to...
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Cognition

A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Numbers

Before I could even enroll in community college, at age 41, I had to take a couple of summer semesters of “developmental algebra”—which was called “remedial” back when nobody cared about self-esteem.

Yes, I anticipated it with as much horror as you might imagine. Not only that, but it was a 7:30 a.m. class. Every morning, all summer.

I figured if I could make it through that, college would be a snap.

My grasp of numbers is terrible. Calculators can only help so much when you can’t recognize an incorrect answer. I have to do the same equation over and over and get the same answer four out of five times before I’ll trust it.

Surprisingly, I did not stink up the joint in that algebra class. It moved slowly, I worked my ass off and made “A”s. Even hung one of my tests on the refrigerator--it had  “Nice work” written across the top in red.

Then I enrolled in college algebra, where everything sped up and went to hell.

Setting up algebraic equations was easy. They are, essentially, sentences, and that’s my stock-in-trade.  But then the arithmetic would get me. I'd set up a good, solid equation, and somewhere in the execution, I’d take a wrong turn, putting a negative instead of a positive, transposing numbers, adding wrong. Stupid stuff that made me pound my head on my desk.

And then, quadratic equations pretty much did me in. I could barely set up the equations, much less solve them. If basic equations were simple sentences, quadratic equations were James Joyce. My brain hurts just thinking about them.

Why am I such a fumbler with numbers? New research suggests math agility is an innate skill.

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