Let's be real: Pitfalls of practical math

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In school, my teachers had mercy on me because they allowed me to steer clear of geometry, sidestep trigonometry and cruise past calculus coursework. Instead, my senior year in high school, I proudly joined the vocational trades track.

The program set me on what I believe is my life's proper path. The program afforded me the opportunity to go to school part of the day and work the other half at a local radio station.

Otherwise, I would have been on track to destroy my grade point average. Honestly, I've always been a wordsmith of sorts but never been any good at higher math.

My math-and-measure minded roofer hubby will sometimes scowl at me after he tries to test my knowledge with statements about measurements for eaves, underlayment, fascia and flashing or even inquiries about doubling ingredient portions for the cornbread mix.

I typically stare blankly at that spot between his eyebrows for an inordinate amount of time to appear to be intently gazing into his eyes while thinking.

Instead, a set of color bars has appeared in my brain along with a long beeping sound ricocheting from one end of my skull to the other.


It doesn't matter if you try to dress up math with rational-sounding terms like “practical math.”

When questions are like: A merchant can place 8 large boxes or 10 small boxes into a carton for shipping. In one shipment, he sent a total of 96 boxes. If there are more large boxes than small boxes, how many cartons did he ship?

All I can think about is, What in the world is in the boxes? Why can't all the boxes be the same size? What on earth does it cost to ship all that?

The right brain controls math-related items, while the left brain cultivates one's creative side, so I typically spend much of my time using only half my brain.

I don't believe I've used a protractor or one of those half-circle rulers ever in my entire adult life. To be fair, I'm not a design engineer, but then again I don't even know any design engineers.

To try to convince me otherwise would be more difficult than calculating the square root of pi.

Even though those making an attempt should avoid injecting humor into the equation.

What kind of music do mathematicians like?

Algorithm and blues. (sigh)

To put it succinctly, people who love math have problems.

My understanding is calculus is the illegitimate love child of trigonometry and Satan. So Satan, “Get thee behind me!”

What we need to focus on for our future leaders is learning practical life skills.

Like learning how to cook because, essentially, life is a series of what are we going to eat next.

Fortunately I enrolled in courses because I thought they might be a breeze when unbeknownst to me I was learning true life skills courses such as money matters, finance and banking.

I learned to use a checkbook and still do. (Youngsters, please avoid the snickering!) I understand that makes me a truly “aged” citizen.

However, what happens if the AC man comes by or the bug exterminator? Well, I just write them a check after they do their good work and send them on their way.

Believe it or not, blue collar, salt-of-the-earth, working folk don't necessarily have one of those little credit card swipey doohickeys with them at all times.

Eventually, you will need to make a cash or credit card payment. (I get it that Paypal is the largest online payment system in the world, but don't get me started on their freeze-prone problems!)

To round out my practical life skills courses, I would require youngsters to enroll in an:

1. Auto mechanics class – Because you're never too young to wax philosophical about what that knocking noise is under the hood. And getting one's oil changed is now as much as $80!

2. Cooking 101 – Because spending $12 on lunch makes me grit my teeth every time and eat only half of the meal, so I can save it for the next day to prove I ate a $6 lunch each time.

3. Budgeting and Investments – Because if you saved $100 per month to an investment account with a 10 percent rate of return, you would become a millionaire in 45 years. (Wish I would have been taught such things 45 years ago!)

4. Perpetual decision making, critical thinking and interpersonal relationships workshops – Because we've all walked into a Walmart just to pick up a half gallon of milk and end up with $100 worth of items. Then, we have to explain the expense to our penny pinching spouse. In these moments, it's critical that the ensuing interactions do not result in someone sleeping on the couch.

By the time youngsters are required to learn all such things, I suspect by the end of their lifetime, the money they could save by just learning practical life skills could reach upwards of several million dollars.

I believe it's true, but I'll let someone else do the math.

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