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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Talking Barbie: "Math is hard!"

Math bad. Words good. If I could summarize my academic career in four words, those two sentences would about do it. I have never been mathematically adept. I still count on my fingers. I cannot for the life of me multiply two two-digit numbers in my head. Unless they are squares. I know my squares up to 13, but that's about it.

My father, the Ph.D-holding microbiologist who teaches calculus to grad students, has never been able to figure out how, with both of his two children, neither of them managed to get even a fraction (ha!) of his math skills. My brother is spectacularly bad--he's taken college algebra at least three time, in community college no less, and has yet to pass it. (I'm pretty sure that it's statistically impossible for someone to fail a class multiple times at a community college: they hold your hand throughout the entire process. I have to give my brother props for beating that particular system.)

Anyway, the point is that I can relate to talking Barbie, who will forever be remembered for doing a disservice to a generation of young girls when she said, "Math is hard!"

Along with my math deficiency, I am also not a very orderly person. When I was growing up, my mother often and, I like to think, fondly, referred to my room as a "disaster area." When I was a teenager, there were weeks when it was so messy that you couldn't see the floor. Fortunately for the roommates I've had over the years, I'd pretty much outgrown that by the time I went away to college. However, I'm still not a tidy person. Never have been, never will be. I don't pay attention to detail, despite what I say in job interviews, my desk is constantly cluttered, and I am fully capable of leaving the house with less-than-perfect hair. No one's gonna accuse me of being a perfectionist--at least, not with a straight face.

So, with my dynamite combination of math deficiency and tidiness anemia, why am I so drawn to geometric shapes? I love their orderliness, their clean lines and repetition. I love the angles and the planes and the patterns. M. C. Escher was always one of my favorite artists--I could, and often did, get lost in his precise forms and regimented evolutions. Similarly, I was drawn to Mason-Dixon Knitting because it glorifies the simplicity and beauty of straight lines and patterns. Recommended in the book is a website called Woolly Thoughts, which is devoted to mathematical knitting. Their creations, particularly their afghans, are amazing, and they are all based on different mathematical principles.
For example, this one:

is squares within squares within squares.

None of the principles upon which the afghans are based mean anything to me, of course, but the results are absolutely stunning and really show the versatility of color and geometry. All of the blankets are knitted using garter stitch, so there is no fancy footwork. I've been knitting for, let's see, over five years. I am so sick of garments that don't fit, and knitting a parade of endless socks and hats just does not appeal to me. Perhaps mathematical afghans are my calling?

3 Comments:

  • One of the first things I tell people in (library) job interviews is that I am detail oriented. I am, however, not. I am not organized, not tidy, not anything but a mess. And I would like to say that I have grown out of that over my years with roomates. However, that would not be true. I got a 790 verbal on my SATs, and a 540 math. You basically get that for writing your name. Tonight Jacob and I were playing Cribbage, and I still had to count on my fingers. Does that mean we are bad librarians, or does that mean we need to redefine what librarians are?

    I think that regardless it means that we were destined to be friends. Cheers to that, Tasha ( and every time I see you you have good hair)

    By Blogger heather., at 11:00 PM  

  • That's why you're all in the language part of life. Me, I'm math. I count steps I walk, I think in terms of five's and three's. As for Tasha being "better" when she went to college... haveing seen here there, lived with her there... i'll keep my mouth shut. The knats that hatched in the dirty dishes in the sink... i'm glad she moved out it was the biggest stress our friendship has ever had. WAIT we learned to know 5 years ago!!!!!!

    By Blogger Aundra, at 12:56 AM  

  • I'm going to have to defend myself here. I'll give you the dirty dishes, Aundra. But I'm also going to have to remind you that you were, at that time, dating a certain guy that I think I referred to as The Prince of Darkness. You were ALWAYS fighting with him--always fighting, always unhappy, always going to fix whatever problems you guys had. THAT stressed our friendship too.

    PS--the word thing that i have to type in here is COKEVLRS. I'm going to interpret that as Coke Valours. Any takers?

    By Blogger Tasha, at 9:34 AM  

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