Mathematics Articles

Research-Backed Resolutions

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

resolutionsThe 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 what I was doing rather than any big life changes.

Nevertheless, I  am passing on a fun press release  titled “Ten (Research Tested) New Year’s Resolutions.” It’s a hodgepodge of research from the University at Buffalo (New York) nominally connected to New Year’s Resolutions about weight loss, management style, math, and more.

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t let a press release do my work for me, but I injured my hand recently and can’t type for long periods of time. Hopefully, I’ll be back in shape in time to fail at my 2012 New Year’s Resolutions. Which I’m not making.

Happy New Year!

Resolutions on a napkin photo available from Shutterstock.

A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Numbers

Friday, August 12th, 2011

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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