Those of you who know me know that math and I don’t get along very well. We had a fight many years ago, and have barely spoken since. So it may be rather surprising to see me choosing to celebrate World Math Day today. Well, just because we aren’t good friends, that doesn’t mean that math isn’t important or doesn’t deserve to be celebrated! (I also didn’t feel like celebrating Registered Dietician Day or No Smoking Day. ;))
I was fairly average at math in school. Our class had been divided into four math groups based on skills, and I was firmly in the second-highest group. In sixth grade, we were given some sort of standardized math test to better evaluate our abilities and determine which students got to be placed in an advanced math class. None of us had ever been taught the concept of algebra, but this test included a section that briefly explained the basic premise of it followed by a few problems to solve to see how well we understood it. Perhaps the way it was presented made sense to me, because I apparently did really well with the algebra portion of the test and was the only student in second-highest group to be chosen for the advanced math class. There were kids in the higher math class that didn’t even make it!
I didn’t pat myself on the back for very long.
Sure I got the basic idea of algebra down pat: finding x in simple equations like the ones in the sample test was easy. But soon the math concepts got harder and harder, the homework got tougher and tougher. It was a far cry from the adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing and fractions I had already sorta had down pat. In the third marking period in seventh grade, I got my first ever F on a report card. Yikes. I passed math by the skin of my teeth through eighth grade, and by freshman year in high school I was out of the special math class and simply put into geometry with the sophomores. Not an advanced class, I essentially just ended up a year ahead of my fellow freshman. Geometry wasn’t too bad since it was sorta visual, but then came more advanced algebra, a semester of trigonometry and then there was pre-calculus. I don’t even know what pre-calculus is or what it’s used for, never mind this “calculus” stuff it supposedly leads up to, but I did somehow manage to just barely pass. The moment I walked out of that final exam at the end of junior year, my brain was like an overfilled balloon, releasing all the math knowledge that had been crammed into it. Pffffffftttt… gone. I had fulfilled my math education quota as required by the State of New Jersey, and have never set foot in a math classroom since.
Today, I make do with what math skills I have managed to retain. I may not have ever found a use for that pre-calculus mumbo-jumbo in real life, but it has been difficult to escape the need for math altogether. In my graphic design work, I need math to calculate measurements and positions in a page layout (knowing the decimal equivalents to fractions of an inch is quite handy); figure out how many printed pieces I can fit on a given sheet of paper and thus how much paper I will need to order; as well as to tally how much of a given craft supply I will need to purchase in order to complete an order of, say, 100 invitations that will each be wrapped with 48″ of twine and use 20″ of adhesive tape, taking into consideration how much product is in one roll of twine or one package of double-sided tape. I will admit that I do resort to using the calculator for simple arithmetic that I probably should be able to do in my head. But at least I know I’m getting the right answer and not second-guessing myself because of my skills (or lack thereof).
So even if your daily life doesn’t require the use quadratic equations, math is important. There are many adorable items to be found on Etsy that celebrate math, and some that simply celebrate the fact that not all of us are gifted in its ways. Whichever side of that fence you fall on, don’t forget to visit the treasury and check the items out for yourself. And remember to visit my other not-so-mathematical Every Day is a Holiday treasuries here!
Click on the image to see the treasury on Etsy, complete with links to the featured shops and items!
“Every Day is a Holiday” is my Etsy Treasury project for 2014. I’m hoping to find unique and beautiful items that exemplify the holiday of the day—the sillier and weirder, the better! What’s better than finding something worth celebrating each and every day?