Personal Myth 64: I Am Good At Math

This is how bad I am at math. I should clarify – how bad I am at simple math, not calculus or some other professional-level mathematizing (yes, dear spell-checker, I know that’s probably not a word).

I am so bad at math that when I get one thing right, I think to myself, “Hmm. Maybe I’m good at math after all.” Not considering that the balance of the good math/bad math examples in my life is pretty skewed toward more bad examples than good.

Take two examples from the previous week. I had to figure out how to add two fractions for determining the length of quarter-round I needed for a room remodeling we are doing. Truthfully, my tape measure is marked in a way that is very helpful with eighths and sixteenths and whatnot, so I could add 13 and 3/8 with 28 and 5/16 in my head and the quarter-round fit nicely. I’m good at math!

However, I know it is easier for me to picture fractions in my mind than multiplying numbers together on paper. As proof, my second exercise in math was trying to figure out 36 multiplied by 36. I did it on paper, got an answer and then decided I should probably double-check the answer using the calculator on my phone. I was off by about 1,000. Don’t ask me how. I’m bad at math.

I’m old enough that I grew up having to do math on paper – calculators were fairly new when I was in college (yeah, that old). And of the right gender that when I repeatedly failed math tests, that it was, “Oh well. Girls are not good at math,” with a shrug of shoulders and a redirect toward more feminine pursuits like the English arts, which I clung to like a zero-shaped life ring.

It wasn’t until I owned a home with a lawn, a heating fuel tank, and an in-ground pool that I really wished someone, anyone (including myself), had pushed me to try harder at learning math. As an adult I realize that there’s a whole lot of cubic, linear, and square feet in a house, not to mention gallons, angles, and pounds. Fortunately, along came the internet (once known as the Internet and World Wide Web for you young folks), and at last I found salvation in Googling answers to such perplexing questions as “How big is this pool?” because no one would want to swim in toxic-level pool chlorine and the box of chlorine packets said something like 1 packet per 500 gallons. Makes my head swim (pun intended).

I do Google (or is it now google?) a lot of math questions having given in to the fact that, yeah, I’m not so good at math. But apparently, I’m not the only one – someone out there decided that it is handy to have a cubic feet to gallons volume calculator; a way to measure and cut angles for a hexagon; and – my favorite – how to figure out the amount of concrete you’ll get from those eight bags of cement mix you just hefted onto your cart at Home Depot.

If you are like me, you will desperately want to do the math in your head and maybe even try it. Just remember that while you are driving back to Home Depot to return five of those eight bags, you should swear an oath to yourself that next time, you’ll look it up because you really, really, are bad at math.