English major who likes math

“I really suck at math… I just hate it with all of my waking conscience.”

This quote from a friend of mine could easily be the motto of the English department. Hell, it could have even been my motto a few years back. As an English major, it was almost required that I have an innate disdain for anything involving the addition and subtraction of numbers before I started college. And—not surprisingly—I did have that disdain. But where exactly did this arithmetical aversion come from? It could have come very early on in my life. I wrote stories. I directed plays in my neighborhood. I finger painted the windows. I cut my Barbie’s hair and fashioned outfits for her out of toilet paper and scraps of fabric. In other words, I was a creative kid. In school I was told that you are either “left brained” or “right brained.” Being artistic, I was tagged as a right brainer. Math geeks (I say that with the utmost respect) and other logically minded folks were branded as left brainers. And that was that.

And then there was junior high. And high school, for that matter. Now please don’t quote me on this, but public education is certainly lacking in many respects. Many of my math teachers tried, probably, but I sure got away with a whole lot in my math classes. How did I end up with “A”s in nearly all of my classes without really learning anything? Here’s how: We could retake our tests as many times as we wanted and at some point our tired teachers would eventually just give us the answers. So much for the expansion of knowledge.

OK, so I guess the bad taste math left in my mouth was from years of being fed incorrect and biased information. So when it came time for me to take the math classes I had put off for so long, I was, to put it lightly, scared witless. I tested into Math 950. I guess you have to start somewhere. So I started. And I promised myself that I would actually TRY. I would study. I would do my homework. I would ask questions. I did all of these things, and you know what? It wasn’t too bad. In fact, I actually began to LIKE math. Imagine that. The biggest surprise was that I was quite good at math, too. Who knew?

I was confused, though. Not by any equation or formula or square root, but by my sudden obsession and skill in mathematics. How did an English major suddenly become a mathematician? Well, to be super anti-climatic with the answer… I don’t know. I guess I just studied like crazy. And perhaps I’m more left brained than I thought. According to researchers, words and language are as much of a part of the left side of one’s brain as math and science. Huh. Good to know.

Here is the moral of the story/long-winded article: You don’t need to categorize yourself. Who says it’s a cemented rule that if you like writing poems you can’t possibly like doing a little long division polynomial style? Explore all aspects of your education. Don’t hole yourself up in your major. Take a variety of classes in all departments. Who knows what you will discover?

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