WTF? What’s the Formula?!

Working at a university I pick up tidbits of wisdom here and there.  One day in casual conversation, one professor said to me, “Math is not just about the numbers!”  At the time I just shook my head in agreement and wished him well on his way out the door trying to figure out math without numbers and dizzying formulas.

Suddenly, flash forward to my son’s pre-algebra homework and he, like me, is pretty quick when it comes to math and can figure out answers by looking at the problems.  His teacher sent back the assignment, however, saying that he was marked down for not showing his work. Out of nowhere, my lips were moving and I heard myself say “You have to take the time and effort to write each step.  Math is not just about the numbers!

Now, I’m not trying to imply that life is one big ongoing word problem (Collective groan!).  I’ve realized that math doesn’t just teach us how to figure out the great sale price of those adorable shoes times 5 different colors plus the 8.75% tax in our heads.  It is about the process and the planning, applying formulas and logic, then following the steps in order to find the answer.   It’s about documenting, double-checking and problem solving if it didn’t work out well.  These are skills that will come in handy for all kinds of projects!

Finally, one more mystery of me solved!  The sight of rows of numbers on a page truly makes my brain grow fuzzy, yet somehow, I was always strong with math.  Somehow my problem-solving and planning skills helped me stick out problems through the end.  Math! It’s not just about the numbers!

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