I am a math person. I am not sure how many actual mathematicians would identify me as math person because my “expertise” in math does not extend much beyond basic algebra. Plus, my 25 year old “A” in Calculus doesn’t change the fact that I turned into a lawyer. Still, I say I am a math person because I am not “not a math person.”
In addition, it troubles me to hear people say they are not math people. Like this is an acceptable thing to be. Like when otherwise intelligent people say they are not feminists. I am so confused. I want to say, “That just doesn’t add up!”
Having spent a little time helping my kids with their math homework, I have some insight into how “not math people” are made.
For example, this week my first grader encountered this problem:
She asked me for help and we were both confused. The problem seemed to make no sense. When I looked at the shapes in the “addition sentence,” the shape I wanted to draw was a giant blank.
The problem was, this problem was asking us to address too many problems at once. Little kids are trying to grasp the concept of quantity (**** + ** = ******) at the same time they are trying to grasp the idea that the number 4 can “stand for” the quantity ****, at the same time they are trying to grasp the concept that “+” means “add” and “-” means subtract. Substituting random shapes into the “addition sentence,” confounds these concepts. It is especially confusing when one of the “shapes” is a giant “plus sign.”
She “plugged in” the trapezoid for the “2” and got the answer “right.”
I can’t say she understood the concept in any meaningful way. But then again, as a trapezoid who has always felt one giant plus sign short of a parallelogram, who am I to criticize?