I never really liked math. I respected it and those that were good at it, but I didn’t personally enjoy it. It was my worst subject in school and I didn’t think there was any other way to look at it beyond it simply being a complex, difficult subject that a minority of the population excels at.
Fast forward to today and I’ve come to realize that I love math. For all its apparent complexity, it’s actually quite simple and there’s nearly always a right answer.
In a world of uncertainty, math provides a sanctuary of precision, accuracy and certainty.
I’ve come to realize there’s real pleasure to be derived from numbers and letters on a page. In higher math it’s not always about the answer, but also very much about how you get there.
I recently had to re-learn the rules and I started to realize that addition is subtraction and subtraction is addition, division is multiplication and multiplication is division, fractions are division which is really multiplication, and you can pretty much do whatever you want as long as you don’t lose your integers. Obviously that’s not entirely true (there are some further intricacies), but it’s true enough that I was able to start playing around and actually start having fun.
I started to realize that “math problems” aren’t problems at all. They’re really “math games” and if you more or less follow the rules, you’ll win and there’s a big prize! Most of that prize is mental, but then again, aren’t most of life’s greatest prizes?
This love affair really erupted when I had to create some graph paper. There are many situations in math that are made easier by having graph paper to hand. For some reason the only kind I had was a copy of a copy that had been copied before it was originally copied. This meant the lines were crooked, the paper looked dirty and it was generally disheartening to look at.
I took to the Internet. Searching for “printable graph paper” and “graph paper template” led me nowhere. No one seemed to have what I needed. So, I resolved to create my own. And create my own I did.
As I was making my graph paper I started to have fun with what I called the individual types. Then, I started having fun with how I formatted it. Then I started having fun with how I printed it. It was like a big box of fun all centered around one of the most individually mundane pieces of math supplies.
This all led me to the conclusion that we’ve been going about math wrong. More specifically, we’ve been going about teaching math wrong.
I enjoyed math right up to the point where I was starting to learn about fractions and mixed numbers. It was at that point when people started to tell me that math is complicated, that math can be difficult, that math is hard work, etc.
Prior to that I had no idea that math was any of those things. Prior to that math consisted simply of number games, answers to find, and solutions to hunt down.
I daresay that’s the case with many other students. I daresay math is simple and fun for everyone (alliteration because why not) until they’re told it isn’t.
So why do we do that? It simply isn’t necessary and, even more simply, it isn’t so.
It isn’t that math “can be fun”, it is fun, until we’re instructed that it isn’t.
Oh, and yes, you’re more than welcome to use the graph paper I created. I seriously don’t understand why it was impossible to find some that already existed, but hey, I had fun.