Math: My Brick Wall

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In math classes growing up it was always smooth sailing for me for awhile until suddenly I would hit a brick wall of confusion clear out of the blue, the way Truman’s boat runs smack dab into the brightly painted, sunny blue “sky” on the wall of the concrete arcological dome Cristof had constructed to contain Truman Burbank’s fictitious “world” (The Truman Show, 1998).

In fourth grade we’d moved (again) and I was the new girl (again) in class so I was too shy and nervous to ask the math teacher to explain for me (again) how in the world an ‘x’ could be added to or subtracted from anything. I sat in my desk quietly crying. I can’t remember how long it was that I was so miserable (a day or two?) but I do remember the sensation of pure joy and relief when, one day, it hit me like a ton of bricks and I suddenly understood the algebraic representation of processes; the fog in my brain parted like sunshine chasing away ominous gray clouds after a storm.

Several years later extreme frustration again smacked me upside the head when I sat in ninth grade Geometry class, tears silently trickling down my face because I was stuck on the proper use of geometric formulas. Once again I was new to the school and painfully shy so I didn’t ask for help and earned the first failing grades of my life; I was utterly devastated. One day, though, the concepts suddenly became crystal clear and once more I enjoyed the liberating sense of euphoria as if I had broken through a brick wall. I earned a “C” for the course for the year and the “Most Improved in Geometry” award at the end of the year. My tears had turned into beams of timid pride.

In college I avoided strenuous mathematic activity and took only the required basic math courses to graduate; so, it has been decades since I have had to bang my head against the proverbial brick wall of arithmetic.

All that has suddenly changed this week and one may rightly think I have lost my marbles, for now I am willingly, even eagerly, researching mathematical principles and learning about octonions and integer sequences and ancient mathematicians such as the Jain Hemachandra and the Italian Leonardo of Pisa. I’m reading numerous books and articles and obscure academic archives online so that I can compile what I have learned into some articles about the Fibonacci Sequence which will serve to educate visitors to a new website.

I’m excited and happy to do this kind of research and writing. I couldn’t help but remember, though, how I used to cry in frustration and disappointment in myself, in my weakness when it comes to comprehending math, and I never would have believed you if you had told me back then that I would be happily chasing mathematical figures and patterns, scaling brick walls like they are nothing, on a bright and sunny, cloudless summer day.