Offbeat – 01 March 2013



Give a kid a bag of sweets with instructions to hand them out. The division becomes remarkably precise. Tell a kid to slice up a chocolate cake, and that the largest slice will go to his or her arch-nemesis, and the exercise of geometry becomes amazingly accurate.

Forty seven divided by nine is five point two something and an apple and an apple is two apples but if you add a pear, then it’s two apples and a pear or the beginnings of a fruit salad.
A mom and a dad can make a variable number of kids. If you divide all the kids by the number of moms and dads together, you might get a fairly arbitrary number of kids like two point three. And the two point three kids is just a notional representation of a family unit. They don’t cut the kids to get to that tally.
There you have it. Maths is easy. Except for long division by hand. That’s a nightmare, unless I have a calculator in hand. Maybe I should go and practice it just in case whatever apocalypse is expected to happen this year destroys all the computers and calculators.
Now, for fifty points, here’s today’s big question. Why is maths frightening?
I used to be scared of maths. I thought it was hard, almost impossible. I knew at a very fundamental level that it would defeat me, and the reason was that big kids told younger kids who told one another, including myself. And because of this, I struggled with maths until I got to university, where I was too busy to struggle with it and I had to give up my fears. End of the story. Well, not quite.