Math and I have never been friends. The first evidence of this was when I was introduced to story problems.
If Train A leaves the station at 7:00 AM and travels 65 miles per hour, and Train B leaves at 9:00 AM and travels 80 miles per hour, which train would you take if you wanted to sleep later in the morning? Truthfully, these problems were about that logical to me.
This struggle followed me through high school and into college when I was making a career decision. For the first three years of post-college life, I taught high school Home Economics. Was this my life goal when I entered college? I wasn’t sure, but the scenario at freshman orientation went something like this:
Advisor: “So Pam, what’s your area of interest?”
Me: “Well, I have four or five areas and I’m not sure which one yet.” I slid my list across the table to him.
Advisor: “Hmmm. I see. Quite a variety.”
Me: “I just have one requirement. I can’t have any more math.”
Advisor: “Oh I’m sure it’s not that bad,” he responded with a chuckle. His face turned serious as he reviewed my high school records, ACT scores and standardized tests going back to fourth grade. He then scanned the requirements for the five prospective majors I gave him. Looking back at me with a big smile, he said, “Welcome to the School of Home Economics. The only one that requires no further math.”
I am not kidding.
This lack of math aptitude has remained with me all of my life and last weekend, I displayed my ineptness with two writer friends. We met in Toledo for lunch and in a generous spirit, I bought an industrial-size, square, rice krispie bar to share with them. Divide into three equal pieces. Easy.
I approached the square treat as if it were a pie and promptly dissected it beginning with a wonky Y-shape. I turned it around to make sure I was getting the angles right, and I ended cutting off the tip of one end and a sliver from the long side of the largest piece to even out the servings. Suddenly, these geometric shapes took me back to math and I began to sweat. Regardless, Kate and Sherry were happy to help me eat the unequal portions.
(Note: Writers see everything as material. Humor writers are the craftiest and I was with two of them, one a published author and the other with enough funny for two blogs. I was doomed!)
On the way home, the obvious finally hit me. Why didn’t I just cut the simple square into three equal strips? What the hell was I thinking? And now Kate and Sherry have this material on me for life!
I’ve been sewing since I was ten and cooking since I was 22, and the irony is, both use lots of math. So far, I’ve been able to get by in life. Except for that one time when I imagined a square was actually a circle and I tried to cut it into three equal parts, in front of two fellow writers. Big mistake. Next time, I’m just eating the whole thing myself.