This blog is about Graphic Design, Vector Art, and Cartoon Illustration

October 27, 2013

Not being good at math

When I started teaching Graphic Design, in the 1990s, one of my favorite things to say was that I wasn't very good at math. That comforted a lot of people. And really, my Fine Arts Degree just required a single class in what I called "dumb-dumb math". It was called "Probabilities" and it was simply a class that used examples from gambling to make us do math. Or, really, arithmetic.

The fact of the matter is that I am bad at arithmetic, but I am not bad at math. I can do algebra, and geometry. I wouldn't be much of a Graphic Designer if I couldn't do that! I understand three-dimensional spaces and objects. I can reason out the logic of how things work, which I call "algebraic logic". But at the stuff that most people call "math", I stink.

If you can figure out the points spread of the big game, or play Blackjack without taking off your shoes, you impress me. If you can count change backwards at a cash register, it's practically a magic trick to my eyes. I had friends in high school who could throw around things like batting averages, etc. It made no sense to me. And frankly, it never interested me.

We learn, and remember, what is important to us. Memorizing multiplication tables, and being able to do addition and subtraction in my head was not important to me. Yes, I know that if you sell me something for 99 cents, it costs less than $1.49, but I have no interest in calculating the percentage. I will do it, begrudgingly, and I understand the concept, but it will take me a long time.

No one uses the term "arithmetic" anymore, and even I am too young to remember it ever being called that in school. And yet it's arithmetic that you are doing when you place the bet on the big game. I'm impressed by people who can do, and can do it fast, but it's like watching something going fast on a motorcycle. It's cool, but it's something that I will never do.

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