Math is Hard

I don’t actually hate math.

Once I got to college, my brain grew enough that I I finally grasped the concept of “x” as representative of unknown quantity. Like a man escaping a cave of shadows, I saw the beauty of algebra. A thing is itself and can be shown with a little picture known as a formula to explain its makeup. Brilliant!

If only I’d known in seventh grade. Then I wouldn’t have spent the next six years guessing my way through homework.

That’s why I say I hate math. But I don’t. I just got abused by the system, man.

Here we have Amias Shipley’s poem “Submission to Calculus,” a piece which basically sums up why I’m an English major (poem starts at 18:40).

It’s one of those laugh/ cry poems.

You laugh through it. “Oh, haha, so true,” you say, “This poet gets me and my comedy of errors. The author probably knows how I talk to myself in the shower, and find cookie tins full of sewing equipment, and how I love to spin on rolling chairs when no one is looking.” And you chuckle to yourself like the sophisticated connoisseur you are.

Then you get to the end and feel a little sorry for yourself.

The comedy: Amias builds a narrator in a desperate struggle to pass a math test, and their musings are pretty humorous. They come up with a few methods for cheating. Memorizing solutions, notes smuggled in a pencil, or “tattoos of theorems I can never recall, because they won’t tell me I can’t bring notes if the ink can’t wash off.” And they wonder why they don’t understand. Because math is hard? Because they expect math to be hard? It’s a lovely recursive mess. Listen to Amias read it and feel the confusion oozing out of the sentence structures.

The tragedy: Our narrator explains that they want to do well in calculus.”But I know what I want, and I know this is the only way to get there.” So maybe they want to be a doctor who saves people from brain cancer, or an engineer who designs new flying machines. Maybe they want to learn math just to get an education and be a rounded person. So they take the hard path, ready themselves to put in the effort, put a poster of their dream on the wall so they can see it every day and remind themselves of what they can become and then…

“I can feel myself failing.”

The end.

What are we supposed to do with that?  Learn enlightenment and detach from all desire?Keep plodding along and hope that effort garners success? And if you do fail, forget your dream, forget who you wanted to be, and try to become some lesser thing?

Nope! Just become an English major to start out with. Problem solved.

-Jessica, your friendly neighborhood Helicon Blogger




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