Math Haters

For some strange reason, it is socially acceptable to hate math.

Picture the scene:  I’m out somewhere and people ask the inevitable question: “what do you do?”     So, I’ll tell them, “I’m a math professor.”  Then they say:  “Hey that’s great… I hate math.”     This conversation happens to me.  Often.    I can’t really imagine this happening with English professors.   Can you see really imagine someone saying, “Yeah, that’s great, but I hate to read?”

Mind you, I understand what people mean when they make this blanket statement of “I hate math.”  For most folks, they just haven’t bothered to articulate what they really feel about math.   Most of the time they mean to say is “I’ve had a bad teacher before.”   Or “I don’t feel secure in my math skills.”   Or “I get frustrated that I don’t remember my multiplication tables.”    Or a thousand variations of these.    I find that the people who have this attitude have convinced themselves that they are bad at math.

So, I spend rather a lot of time being a math cheerleader.

Most people don’t really realize how often they use math.   At its very core, math is the science of patterns.   Going shopping, rearranging your cupboards, figuring out your bar tab,  tithing to your church,  avoiding tithing to your church, paying your taxes, reading your bank statement, figuring out the tip to your waitress/waiter,   figuring out your mileage,  figuring out just how much you can speed without getting pulled over,  planning your exercise, voting responsibly, arranging bodies in the trunk of your car, figuring out how old you are, figuring out how many birthdays you really are over 29, dieting, planning your meals, calculating the trajectories of lawyers off of tall buildings, calculating the calories burned from 20 minutes walking, calculating the calories burned from 20 minutes of sex, figuring out how much sleep you’re getting, figuring out how old something is in the fridge …  All of these use math.

Please, don’t tryall of these at home.  Please do try some.  Everyone needs to rearrange their cupboards.

So there.

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