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I’m not a math person. I never was, and I doubt I ever will be. Doing simple multiplication in my head is enough to stun me for a few moments. I even have a hard time memorizing multiplication tables. Some people think that I got interested in computers because I was interested in math. They were wrong. What attracted me to computers was not the “gee whiz” factor, but the secret plotting of a young mind that I could get a computer to do my math homework for me. That’s a plan that would have worked well except for one fundamental flaw: you need to know math to program a computer to solve your math problems.

This is probably a good thing because I think if I were good at math I would end up destroying the universe.

Most of the problem probably boils down to the fact that I don’t understand math. I don’t even understand numbers all that well. Rational? Imaginary? Okay, if you say so. SIN? LOG? Cosine? Those are words I don’t know the meaning of, but I think they’re all synonymous with “fear.”

Not that I’m totally backwards, mind you. I understand that:

If I have four apples and someone gives me another apple then I have five apples. (4+1=5)

If I have five apples and I give away two apples then I’m left with three. So far, so good. (5-2=3)

If three people each give me one apple then I have three apples (3 x 1 = 3)

If I have one apple and want to split it between four people then we each get a quarter of an apple (1 / 4 = .25)

I’m good with all that, except for advanced division.

Now it starts to get tricky for me:

If I have 4 apples and nobody gives me any more then I have 4 apples (4 + 0 = 4)

If I have 4 apples and I’m stingy and don’t give any away, then I have 4 apples (4 – 0 = 4)

If three people decline to give me an apple, then I have no apples (3 x 0 = 0)

But if I have one apple and don’t want to divide among four people, well that can’t be done. Computers and calculators will give me an error, while people who know better will “tut tut” me and take away my mechanical pencil.  Why is this? Why can’t I say ‘4 / 0 = 4’? It seems logical to me; not splitting something up leaves you with what you started with. At least in my mind that works.

 

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