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by A. Gagliardi
My husband is a high school mathematics teacher and he speaks this foreign language fluently. Whereas I’m working on Spanish and Hmong, he knows math from simple addition to quantum equations; his head is full of Cartesian graphs, composite numbers, and theoretical probability, which factor his days and segment his nights. He performs statistical analysis on the math tests he gives to see which problems gave his students the most trouble. He even dreams numbers, scratching our bed sheets thin working out the inverse properties of multiplication tables and searching for prime numbers. I tell our children how lucky they are to have a mathematical father because I know so little about numbers; I married him for his math skills, I insist.
The sphere of my math knowledge is quite limited; I’m a math incompetent, actually, quite the obtuse angle. I can’t compute the ratio of hits to strike outs at the baseball game or create an equation to settle a dispute about whose car gets better gas mileage. Nor can I consistently use the spreadsheet to crunch the numbers for our budget – or anyone else’s for that matter. I can’t tell an integer (I’m not positive or negative about that term ) from an angle. And I think if you torture numbers long enough they will admit to anything.
What little math skills I have are divided between the factors I am unilaterally familiar with: cooking and children. The sum of my math facts is 1.) that the smaller numbers are afraid because seven ate nine and wonder if they will be next, and 2.) that Zero is jealous of number eight because of she has a belt and he doesn’t. It’s amazing that I am able to set the correct number of plates on the table for a meal, and measure flour and sugar for a passable dessert. However, there will be no triangles and quadrangles dividing my pies, and tangents do not reside in my cupboard. I will not harbor infinite numbers nor solicit the companionship of the common denominators. It is my central tendency to disregard fractions and the equivalent equations that factor the means for my existence.
I am no less than nor greater than other math phobics. I didn’t want to be a rhombus so I learned to name consecutive composite numbers (congruent or otherwise ) and have picked up a passing acquaintance with the tesselations of daily living. There is one thing I am sure of, however, you won’t get much math verbiage out of me.