You may have noticed from reading this blog or following me on various social media platforms, but I am not a math person. At the risk of sounding like a braggart, I have degrees in history, English Literature, Education, anthropology, and a partial degree in museum studies. There is and has always been a clear method to the madness when it comes to my degrees and I have a definite plan to use each and every bit of knowledge that I have gained, but there is something that you may have noticed. These are all the social sciences, and the social sciences all have something in common.
They really don’t tend to use math that much.
That is really oversimplifying things; I use math in my role as an archaeologist and it’s something I’m glad I know how to do, but I noticed that my work tends to be more focused on the critical thinking, the basic math, and the logic puzzles than on the things I learned in geometry and pre-pre-calculus.
Full disclosure, I stopped taking math at that specific level, because I knew that it was not my strong suit and I wanted to take extra English, history, and music classes.
This topic does make me laugh, though, I can remember a friend of mine informing me when I was a lowly undergrad that, by becoming an archaeologist, I would become a “real scientist.” I laughed and said thank you, because what else do you say to that? I know that historians are not technical scientists, you chemists and biologists don’t need to rub it in!
Look Mother! I’m a real scientist!
But the main point of this post is math. I always hated it with a burning fiery passion, and now that I’m older I think I know why. I struggled with some of the more abstract concepts (to be fair, I also hate philosophy. Am I a drawing on a cave wall? Does it really change my life if I am? Nope. So I don’t care), and it was frustrating. I’ve always been fairly intelligent, and subjecting myself to something that I was horrible at was low on my list. Especially when I could be doing things that I was improving at and enjoying!
There are two major exceptions to my math saga, however. I adore logic puzzles; ranging from Sherlock Holmes to “Who Owns the Zebra.” I think this is because I am a social scientist, and we work in logic puzzles. Every other field seems to give you a set of clues, point you in the right research direction, and then you form your conclusions. While in English you can argue based on your opinion, in history and archaeology, there are actual answers. Something really happened, and other things did not. There is, in fact, a wrong answer.
I love that, when the answer falls into place, when the last piece of the puzzle fits perfectly and the truth (or as near to the truth as we can see) is revealed.
The other things in math that I love are equations. Not super complicated ones, but ones where you solve for x. For some reason, I’ve always found them relaxing. I would guess that this is because there is always a correct answer. X is something, and that is the way it is.
I wonder if this is because every day, I work with people. People aren’t always logical. There are emotions and there are messy situations that can be hard to deal with. My training has prepared me for that. It seems like that’s just what I do; no matter what my job is, I work directly with people. I love my job. I love most jobs that I have had, and I am very lucky to be able to say that.
But sometimes, when I find myself peopled out, thinking about some complex question about history, literature, anthropology or ethical museum practices, when I’m tired of wrestling with the big questions in my fields, I color.
Didn’t see that coming, did you?
You shouldn’t have, it was a weird fake-out.
But sometimes, I find some quiet math. I balance my budget and make a ten-year financial plan. I pull out some old equations or logic puzzles and solve those bad-boys, because sometimes it’s nice to be able to find the answer.
Solve the puzzle. Sometimes, this is the most frustrating part of math. There is a right answer and there is no room for negotiation. There are no additional facts to support your argument. 2 + 2 = 4, and there is no room for debate (unless you’re using fancy math).
So that, dear reader, is my personal journey with math. It’s fascinating, but I’m thankful that now I can just pick the parts I like, the parts that are fun (and the other things, like balancing checkbooks or doing taxes. Less fun, but still important).
Bring on the logic puzzles and the equations!
The math people can keep all the other stuff.