Yep, you know I’m scraping the bottom of my subconscious when I write a blog post about math. But best I can tell, math is mostly a pointless, stupid thing. I mean, sure, it may have played a small part in producing some of the modern luxuries we all enjoy, like rectangular pop tarts, but think about all the miseries and horrors math has unleashed, like, for instance, my recurring nightmare about calculus class. I guarantee you, in the days before math, cavemen didn’t have recurring nightmares about calculus class; they probably just had blissful dreams about picking berries with cavewomen, with maybe a nightmare thrown in every once in a while about a sabretooth tiger or tyrannosaurus rex, both of which pale in comparison to the ferocity of an old-school math teacher.
Mrs. Seymour was old. I suspect she was probably around when calculus was first invented. Her general strategy for teaching math was massive amounts of homework, plus humiliation and shame. I can’t say it wasn’t effective. I probably learned more in her math class than many others, but then again I still have nightmares about her scanning the class, searching the downcast eyes of her pupils for her next victim to send to the board. In my nightmare it’s always me and for some reason I’m wearing a turtleneck and suspenders, a la Steve Urkel, and my classmates are snickering. Eventually, after I get the question wrong, Mrs. Seymour hangs her head in disappointment and then slowly looks up with an evil grin and gets in on the snickering, which crescendos to a full-blown communal laugh at my expense and then I wake up. Scary stuff.
Another scary thing is me trying to do long form division now. I once was proficient at division, back in 4th grade, but now it’s a sad sight to see me, a full-grown man, baffled by basic arithmetic. I knew how to set up the problem, with the little division half-box thingy, but after that my mind was a jumble of mathematical rules: carry over, bring down, please excuse my dear Aunt Sally, Roy G. Biv, etc. Eventually, I had to use my phone to Google how to do longform division, which shows you how dumb I’ve become, since the advent of smart phones, because I could have just used the calculator on my phone to do longform division.