Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Big Picture

Lived a great example of spatial thinking with poor sequencing skills the other day. (c.f. "The Perfectionist II, The Heretic" April 15) Our climbing roses had a huge problem with mildew last year so DH found a recipe for an anti-mildew spray to put on them. The recipe makes a gallon of the solution, though and we only had a 16 oz sprayer. To figure out the ratio of baking soda to add to this smaller amount of water, I figured "sixteen is 1/4 of a gallon, so 1/4 of 3 tablespoons is..." then pictured each tablespoon divided into three teaspoons and eliminated 3/4 of them ..."about 2 teaspoons." I remember very clearly the mental picture of the partially filled tablespoons.

Not quite sure I'd done it right--picture math is a lot harder to check than regular arithmetic--I asked DH what the ratio should be. He immediately reeled off a series of calculations (which sounded to me a lot like the teacher on a Charlie Brown cartoon ;) and said, "12 teaspoons." Um, I don't think so. Turns out he multiplied where he should have divided. Then he confirmed I was right.

My point here is not to immortalize on the internet the one math problem DH has gotten wrong. This hardly ever happens, which is why I asked him to check my answer in the first place. My point is that I was suddenly aware of the stark differences in the way our brains work. I would have had to use pencil and paper, set up an algebraic equation and solve for "x" to figure out the problem the way he did. My brain just doesn't work that way unless I force it, i.e. solving equations.

I've never thought I was particularly good at math. Actually, there are parts of math I'm very good at, namely geometry, although I'm always skipping steps in proofs; and multiplying and dividing fractions--whee! Both of these are very visual, by the way. But standard arithmetic is laborious and, since I'm a girl, it was easy for me to say, in the immortal words of Teen Talk Barbie, "Math is hard!" and never get beyond Algebra 2. ;)

I suspect my sequential difficulties might be the root of my writing problems, as well. I do great scenes, but structure, i.e. sequence? Fugeddaboutit! LOL


Anonymous said...

Okay, Ms. Math Phobe, have you played the Logica Journey of the Zoombinis yet??

Best computer game I ever played. (the original one, that is).

All math, but not a number in sight. Have fun with the little blue guys!

The Princess Mom said...

Sweet! I just ordered it. We haven't had a good
education game since we outgrew Cluefinders. :D

Anonymous said...

Warning: It's addictive. You may want to get your writing done before playing. ;) Cuz grownups have more fun with it than the kids, LOL.

There is another (maybe 2 more?) out now but the graphics are not as good as these, and my kids didn't like the second one as much.