It always surprises me how many of my writer friends are so quick to claim their own ignorance of maths – proud of it, in fact – where they would be very reluctant to admit to not being able to read. Whenever anyone tells me that they have ‘never used algebra in their life’ I tend to point out, that may be the case, but every day and in ever more ways, algebra is using YOU. So it might be wise to at least be aware of it!

I overcame my lifelong phobia of mathematics recently by finishing a teaching degree at the age of 59. As I struggled to understand variables in particular, it occurred to me that I was the one not making sense, and that my equation of math was skewed. This realisation helped me immensely. Soon after, I saw that other areas of my life were not adding up. I think of math now as more than just an exercise; math is life.

Arithmetic was Oh So Easy — for me.
Algebra was the greatest ever: you could prove your answers!
Calculus took a little work.
Integrals took me to the trough.

Fortran IV computer system software was easy, too — except every time I made a mistake, someone would know about it.
I ran.

I honestly wish my science teachers had been the one to teach algebra. I had a particular block about the “assume x = y” stuff, because I could not get past the “assumption” part. I don’t like to assume anything without a rational reason 🙂

Sigh … Whereas, in science class, they just got on with it: R = D / T (rate, distance, time). And it all clicked, and I finally believed my algebra teacher when she said math was logical. I thought algebra was voodoo until then.

I discovered I liked math just fine when using it for fun stuff like calculating how how close to put moons to a planet, so my characters could have Saturn-type rings on their world. Or using the rate formula to determine if a character’s alibi could work if he claimed to drive from Point A to Point B within a certain time frame. I bet other writers would get behind math if they knew it could make their plots cooler.

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It always surprises me how many of my writer friends are so quick to claim their own ignorance of maths – proud of it, in fact – where they would be very reluctant to admit to not being able to read. Whenever anyone tells me that they have ‘never used algebra in their life’ I tend to point out, that may be the case, but every day and in ever more ways, algebra is using YOU. So it might be wise to at least be aware of it!

Good points, Catherine.

I overcame my lifelong phobia of mathematics recently by finishing a teaching degree at the age of 59. As I struggled to understand variables in particular, it occurred to me that I was the one not making sense, and that my equation of math was skewed. This realisation helped me immensely. Soon after, I saw that other areas of my life were not adding up. I think of math now as more than just an exercise; math is life.

Arithmetic was Oh So Easy — for me.

Algebra was the greatest ever: you could prove your answers!

Calculus took a little work.

Integrals took me to the trough.

Fortran IV computer system software was easy, too — except every time I made a mistake, someone would know about it.

I ran.

I honestly wish my science teachers had been the one to teach algebra. I had a particular block about the “assume x = y” stuff, because I could not get past the “assumption” part. I don’t like to assume anything without a rational reason 🙂

Sigh … Whereas, in science class, they just got on with it: R = D / T (rate, distance, time). And it all clicked, and I finally believed my algebra teacher when she said math was logical. I thought algebra was voodoo until then.

I discovered I liked math just fine when using it for fun stuff like calculating how how close to put moons to a planet, so my characters could have Saturn-type rings on their world. Or using the rate formula to determine if a character’s alibi could work if he claimed to drive from Point A to Point B within a certain time frame. I bet other writers would get behind math if they knew it could make their plots cooler.