June 9th 2016

Today I struggled to add two numbers together. Which is worrying, because I have a Maths degree. I served a table of five at work (*waiter, restaurant) *and they asked to have their bill split five ways – easy enough, the order processing system can do that for us. So they each got a bill with what they each had. But then when it came to payment time, one of the boys wanted to pay for his and his mates, so I had to add them together.

17.50+18.80

For the longest time I just stood there, trying to work it out. And I couldn’t do it. Usually my brain can work it out quicker than the time it takes for someone to get their phone out, find the calculator app, and add them together. But today I had to wait for him to find his calculator app. And it both worried and annoyed me.

I can (*usually*) look at a less than four digit number and tell you if it’s prime. I can multiply sets of three digit numbers in my head. I know every power of Pi up to 4 (*including 0.5)* to 10 decimal places.

Mental maths is my *thing. *I genuinely once spent an entire pre-drinks at University standing with a couple of girls answering any multiplication problems they posed to me. Every time I got one right they drank, every time I got one wrong I drank. Possibly the nerdiest drinking game to have ever occurred, yes, but they were impressed, and I stayed sober.

Since graduating Uni I’ve not exactly “used” my Maths degree. Hell, I’ve barely used my brain. Maths at Uni wasn’t *my *maths. It wasn’t answering questions and solving questions. It was finding out why the questions were asked, and proving and deriving the formula I used to solve the question. (*And the proof is infrequently “well, it gave the right answer – didn’t it?”)* But I was always good at it, and that’s why I did it.

And now I’m a Maths graduate with no interest in Maths, who wants to pursue a career in creative writing with absolutely no commercial experience in the industry. Great.

Eventually the guy found out that the answer to 17.50+18.80 is 36.30. I would’ve got there eventually, I’d just forgotten to carry the one and kept getting 35.30 but knew it wasn’t right.

So I stood there in shock as I realised that the talent for numbers I once possessed has faded due to lack of practice, and I was ashamed. And that’s a weird thing to feel ashamed about, but if you hadn’t already picked up on this: I am a massive nerd.

Until tomorrow, and proud of it.

Jacn

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It seems that there is an expectation of math majors/graduates to do mental math/arithmetic fast and be “human calculators”. Even I feel pressure from time to time. It is not a good experience to be exposed just because you can’t do mental math fast.

However, mathematics is more than multiplying, subtraction, addition, division. The higher level mathematics contain abstract concepts and a lots of symbols in the form of greek letters.

Don’t be ashamed, even us math majors can’t be perfect all the time. We just want to be “real”.

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I know the feeling, I’m technically a math teacher but I’m always slow when out with friends and splitting the bill. If someone needed help with a parabola or logs I’d be much more useful.

https://mathsux.org

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Math makes our brain stop at one time or another!

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