Monday, June 11, 2012

Covering the Full Spectrum

I seem to talk about balance a lot. (I just ran a search on "balance" and it came up with a dozen posts here on the blog.) It certainly comes up plenty when talking about writing. Balance description with pace. Balance clarity with mystery and intrigue. Adjectives aren't evil; the overuse and abuse of them is.

Basically, I don't go in for absolutes on a lot of things. It's not just in writing, either. It holds in other areas, even when I make a statement that might seem absolute. For instance, I'm sure this won't come as a surprise:

I love math.

But does this mean I love math absolutely? That I love all math? That I love every single thing pertaining to math?


There are parts I love more, parts I love less, and parts I love not at all. Like what, you ask? Here you go—examples.

Math-Thing I Love a Lot: Being able to break down a complex problem into steps or pieces that logically flow from one to another.

Math-Thing I Love Less: Sketching visuals (graphs, diagrams, etc.) by hand. I can do them pretty well on paper, but I'm a teacher. That means whiteboards. And that means, uh, not so pretty. (Favorite math quote of all-time: "Geometry is the art of correct reasoning from incorrect drawing.")

Math-Thing I Don't Love At All: Having to do things the long way when I know there's a shortcut. That might be more of a math teacher thing, but it came up sometimes when I was a student, too. If a student can prove to me they understand the foundations contained in the long way and can justify their shortcut working consistently, I'll usually let them use it. But as the teacher, I'm generally stuck with the long way in the early days of teaching a concept.

But here's the good news about having such a full spectrum even within something I love. I suspect it means even students who generally hate math will have some aspect of it they don't hate. My job is to find that aspect, because that's where I can get my foot in the door.

How about you? If you love math, what part of it do you hate? If you hate math, what part of it do you love?


Suzi said...

Can't say I have anything to hate about it now. In college, it was different. I was not a fan of differential equations and calculus. Unfortunately I had to take 3 calc classes.

What I really hated were trial and error problems. If you don't start on the right spot, your problem can seem endless.

Paige Foreman said...

Love: Derivatives, geometry, and trigonometry.

Hate: Algebra and intergrating. These are the kind of things that make me want to shout at the textbook, "Solve your own dang problems!"

You probably already know this though. :-)

E.B. Black said...

I tend to hate math, but there are parts of it I love. Solving for x or whatever other letter, is often fun for me. I also enjoyed doing proofs in geometry.

brightonluke said...

The worst part about math for me was (what you said about the short cuts, I also hated having to show my work on a problem, esp during finals week if I could do a part in my head why should I have to waste my already fatigued wrist in writing it out)
but also the fact that at least at my school they scheduled all the math classes first thing in the morning!!! Crazy people!
All classes at 8am should involve large amounts of physical activity so I can wake up before I have to use my brain.

wljennings said...

What I love is the beauty of math; what I hate is doing it. I think this is sometimes refered to as a lack of rigor.

Mike Lewis said...

I was a computer science geek in high school, therefore, I loved anything math-wise that I could find a direct application for in computer programming, especially if it was graphics related. (I think mostly trig and some basic algebra: Translating polar coordinates into cartesian coordinates, using sine waves to establish a cycle, that sort of thing.)

Anything I didn't personally have a direct application for, I did not particularly enjoy.