Sunday, April 24, 2011

Don't fear the math!

I know a lot of people cringe when they see math, but I say give numbers a chance!

When I started taking math again - I needed to submit a mark for grade 12 math that was within the last five years -  I would sit at my desk and say how much I hated, hated, hated it! (I'm not a fan of trig or geometry because I don't know left and right and I can't move objects in my head). I realized didn't hate it, I was just frustrated by my not-so-mad skills in it. It made me feel really stupid to sit and look at a picture of a triangle and not understand how this one was ambiguous and the other wasn't (which is the best name for a band ever - the Ambiguous Triangles!). But with a lot of hard work and persistence, I got it in the end and managed an A! I made friends with math and I'm happy with what I know, and I'm even considering taking more math in the future.

Statistics on the other hand...eeek! My husband is a stats minor and we have holy wars between chemistry and stats where he pulls out his stats book and yells "The power of statistics compels you!" while chasing me around the kitchen. I flick water on him yelling "Holy H2O!" or shout something about the pH scale. Yes, we're an interesting couple and the fun never ends in our house! 

Give math a chance. Sit down with it and don't be afraid. Work out the math step by step and you will get an answer eventually. It's not about speed, it's about persistence. If it's the wrong one, then go back and figure it out where you went wrong. The nice thing about math is that there is always a right answer, and there's some comfort in that kind of surety.

We're fortunate in cosmetic chemistry that we don't have to look at a ton of numbers - some basic skills in figuring out percentages is generally enough, although if you really want to get into logarithms for the pH scale, have at it - and with a little persistence, you can get good at it. You don't need to be a math genius to be comfortable with math.

So what the heck do these pictures mean? If you try to get the square root of -1 you get an imaginary number, which is written as "i". And an asymptote is when the line on a graph gets really close to a number but never quite gets there! So you'd never quite reach five, so the high five would go on forever and ever and ever!

Want more math, English, and chemistry related shirts? Check out the Mental Floss site! I have to renew my subscription, and I can't decide between the hyperbole shirt (hey, I was an English major, after all!), the mole shirt, and the Lady Macbeth hand soap shirt (that one's two great references in one for me!).


Tara said...

Sometimes you just need a certain way of figuring a formula out. Not one method works for everyone. I finally found a method that works for me when I went back to university and took introductory inorganic chem. The method the prof taught us is the only method I can use to figure out formulas, and I still use the long method to figure out formulas to this day. Whatever works!

Will said...

Hope you enjoyed your Easter holiday, Susan.


EsseBee said...

I'm not too good with maths, but I love numbers and the things they do. I've just finished a book called "Alex's Adventures in Numberland", by Alex Bellos. It's a very interesting book - except for some of the really mathematical bits that I couldn't get my head around!

Mychelle said...

I can relate to you and your husband! I am an English nerd and my hubby regularly follows me around saying horrible things like "nucular" and "irregardless" until I beg for mercy. (My current obsession is with the mass mispronunciation of the word "supremacist" - it is "supremist." Supremist, damn it!!!) I failed algebra four times in my school days but now that I am a little older I think I might give math another try. Cosmetic crafting has given me the ability to see how math is applicable in real life, and I think I can get it this time around. Thank you for this bit of inspiration Susan!