Rick Charlie

17 Things Math Teaches us about Life. (And I hate math)


Life, like math can have frustration

As a child I despised math with every fiber of my being.  As an adult, I still have great frustration with it.  I have to confess, I really didn’t understand the purpose of it all.  I mean, it was just to get the answers, right?  That was the deal.

Then we got books that HAD the answers in the back.  I didn’t quite get that curve ball.  So NOW what is the point.  Oh, it’s SHOW.YOUR.WORK.  UUGGH!  Isn’t it good enough to know that I just know the answer??

No.  To fully understand both the problem, and the answer, one must show how they got the answer, and only then are they truly enlightened.  Well F.U. Math and math teacher!  I mean right?

But math holds so much more for us than we think.  To learn, we must continually practice over and over and over.  The problems also get bigger, and more complex. Sorry, but it’s true.

Below are the 16 points that math has also taught me about life.  Think about them.  I hope they speak to you as well.

17 Math lessons that are also life lessons

1. The answer is not the point. Understanding what the problem actually is, the steps you must take to get to the answer, and going through all that is.

2. Anyone who is just giving you answers is not really your ally. (SEE #1)

3. There is only so much time you can sit staring at a problem. At some point you have to take a different action.

4. Sometimes you have to let a problem be, skip it for now, and move on to the next one.

5. But you DO have to go back to the problem and work on it. If you keep skipping, they will build up and overwhelm you.

6. Going through one problem, understanding it, and solving it, often is the key, or the help you need to work through a different problem.

7. Some problems can’t be solved.

8. There can be many paths through similar problems, typically there is not just one way to solve them. (yes, us old people hate “common core”, it’s actually not so bad)

9. There may be an error in the problem itself, this is why it is so difficult (think miscommunication, expectations, or assumptions).

10. You can only handle so much math (so many problems) and then you need a break – TAKE ONE!

11. When you lose your mind and can’t figure it out, ask for help. That can be peers, colleagues, family, cohorts, but sometimes, you need a professional. (The internet is great, but it is NOT a substitute for a real human professional)

12. (See#2) – When getting help, just getting the answer does not help. You have to do the HARD, PAINFUL work in order to really understand.  This is even tougher if you have done step #5 too many times.

13. Cheating will bite you in the ass down the road – even if you don’t get caught.

14. Some people appear to be REALLY good at math. Some actually are, some are not.  And that does NOT mean that they can actually teach it. (some can, some can’t).

15. There are people who will purposely try to trick you with math.  Not in a way that is challenging, but in a way that is hurtful.  They might not think it is hurtful.  They also may be professionals.  Be wary of them.

16. You can eventually give up and stop doing math problems. Life does not work the same way.

17. From art, to music, to relationships, to spirituality, to family, home, work and play; EVERYTHING is math.  No, really, everything is.

* Two side notes.  This post was inspired by an FB post about religion.  It is also inspired by one of my best friends in the whole world Brian Repko.  He just happens to be an awesome Mathematician and Rad human as well!  He GETS math (and life), AND he can teach it.  He is the real deal, and he is also the very first person to tell you that he does not have all the answers.

Peace ~ RC

6 thoughts on “17 Things Math Teaches us about Life. (And I hate math)

  1. Brian

    Thank you for the acknowledgment…you knowing me as a “teacher” is a deep acknowledgment for me. Thank you my dear friend.

    Now on to your words!! One that I would add is when learning topology, was that unless you can prove it there probably is a counter example to what you think you know. And from logic, that there are limits to what can be done in any formal system. And humans are formal systems – there is more to life than math and science. Those rule in their realms and one should visit those realms and experience their riches, but there are other different realms that don’t work that way.

    I loved point 8 – that there are different paths. Having been asked to help kids learning a new way, I’d often struggle with my way vs their new way. But I’d could look it up, grok why that new method works and is better and move on. It’s like learning a new language.

    When I taught (years ago), I’d tell my calc students to do math in a group. They were like what? Math is done by oneself. I’d always reply with two points. If you are in a group and no one gets problem 3, then you all get that 3 is hard, vs I don’t get it. The other point was that it would give you an opportunity to practice teaching. Explaining the problem. Get inside the other persons world by asking questions “what patterns do you see”. In a knowledge and creative based economy, the ability to teach is the next most valuable skill (passing ability to learn). We need to find ways to practice teaching and I believe that math is a key area of study for just that.

    Thanks for writing this – I loved it!!!!

      1. RickCharlie Post author

        LOL, that seems more like a logistics typing issue than a writing issues. See #9 in my list!

    1. RickCharlie Post author

      Thank you my brother, and you are most welcome. You have always been a teacher in so many ways! And yes, math is not the only thing, and living gives us that. My point in it all is that it teaches us so much more than we often see, and after we are done schooling, we forget that. Just a reminder to not forget it. Glad you enjoyed it!

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