Math is an important subject, but can be boring to learn. (File photo)

Math is an important subject, but can be boring to learn. (File photo)

Math is important, but not interesting

Robert’s column

Math has never been my strong point.

I’ve always done well in writing courses like history and English, but tended to struggle when it came to math, or any of the sciences for that matter.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate what math and the sciences have done for humanity.

I’ve always been impressed with what physicists, mathematicians and astronomers have come up with in figuring out how the universe operates.

And how they can send a spacecraft to a relatively small moving target like Mars that’s millions of miles away and have computers land it on the surface in a perfect three-point landing has never failed to amaze me.

But the extensive mathematical formulas and proofs that are required as a big part of the process to achieve such accomplishments just makes my eyes gloss over. I was recently watching a news story about a gathering of math teachers somewhere in the U.S. where they sought answers as to how to make the subject more interesting and palatable to their students.

That struck me because in my time, math was a mandatory subject and you were required to take it, regardless of your own personal opinions on just how useful it was.

I always understood its importance; I just didn’t like learning it.

And it’s not just me.

I’ve talked to a variety of people in the Cowichan Valley about how much they value math education in my time here and, while many like me know the basics, few have had the interest to gone on to develop a more in-depth understanding of the mathematical formulas that explain how the universe works.

Like many writers and artistic types, I tend to work through issues and come up with the best solution to a problem based on the most current and up-to-date information available.

And when I get to a conclusion, I’m prepared to defend my position with all the opinions and facts at hand on the issue.

Math and science, however, don’t allow for any arguments.

You’re answer to any problem is either right or wrong and that’s that.

I remember being incensed when I received a C on a math test when I was in high school and how frustrating it was when I attempted to argue with my teacher about how my answers could be correct if interpreted the right way.

He heard me out with a rather condescending look on his face and then shut me down completely.

He said with a smirk that my answers were simply wrong and I could stand there and argue about it until I was blue in the face and it still wouldn’t change that basic fact.

The teacher suggested that I could come by and see him after school and he would explain to me where I messed up on the test.

That was the first time I remember that my “compelling” arguments on any issue were completely dismissed.

In my adolescent ignorance, I felt affronted by the teacher and wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of going to him for help after school.

I sought assistance from friends who were supposed to be better at math then me instead and ended up barely passing the course.

High school was the last time I ever took a math course and I focused my university education on reading and writing courses.

But now, many decades later, a part of me wishes that I had stuck to those math courses so I could understand a bit more how the working of the universe.

I hope those math teachers down in the U.S. figure out a way to make the subject more interesting for their students.

It’s too important in our daily lives to ignore.

robert.barron

@cowichanvalleycitizen.com