When I was 16 I had a Saturday job working at the chemist counter in Boots. It was a job I really wanted but would nevertheless have had to turn down had they not, two weeks previous to my starting, introduced new tills. Until this step into the world of bar codes and magic wands, employees were forced to count out change manually! This would have been such a shaming experience for me, unable to work out anything not in multiples of 10 in my head, I would have had to accept a numerically free position stacking boxes.
This was the beginning of a life-long undertaking - doing my darndest to avoid anything arithmetical and hoping no one would catch me counting on my fingers.
Looking back at my school days, Mr Smith, my maths teacher, was a sadistic and pathetic man whom, I suspect, would have preferred to have had any other job than the one he begrudgingly attempted to do.
But neither he, his flying board duster, nor any other reason for my absolute incomprehension of mathematics can be an excuse for what I have come to accept as my consummate stupidity. On a positive note, there is, I have discovered, a word for my condition, Dycalculia, maths disability. How I wish I'd been aware of that in Mr Smith's lessons.
I managed to keep my dirty little secret under wraps until I married. Only then did I begin to give away hints of my mathematical weakness in bite size chunks. As the realisation hit my poor husband, a man for whom maths is a pleasure not a chore and who dwarfs me intellectually, I swear I saw panic in his eyes. By this time we had reproduced. Would our daughter inherit the dim gene?
And therein lies the problem. Next year our daughter starts school. At the moment, I'm enjoying relative success helping with pre-school number work. Wallowing in her admiration of my ability to add up 3+5 without the use of buttons, Gummi Bears or indeed, fingers.
All well and good, but a sneaked peak into the syllabus for the coming years has me sweating bullets. In fifth grade they will be expected to be multiplying fractions and "finding" percentages. In seventh grade Pythagorean theorem and proportional relationships....blah blah something. As words like quadratic equations and multiplying polynomials swam before my baffled eyes, I realised it was time to consider my options:
Be a good role model. Employ a private maths tutor and attempt to remain one step ahead of five-year-old daughter.
Allow genius husband to take over position of homework assistant in the area of maths and physics
Both options have me reaching for a spoon with which to stab myself. Even going for a short cut option was way over my numerically challenged head.
A friend of mine suggested I take a look at Teach Your Child Math: Making Math Fun for the Both of You. Here they talk about turning maths into a 'game' and say 'numbers are magic'!
Of course, once you start looking, there are a plethora of publications out there to help people like me. Although this should be of some consolation, suggesting that I'm not alone, I'm remain unconvinced they are aimed at parents of primary school kids!
How Many Socks Make a Pair?:Surprisingly Everyday Maths for example, proposes that the answer to that particular question is not necessarily two (what?!) and he will demonstrate the 'secret beauty' hidden in maths. Per-lease. The same chap also wrote a book entitled Maths for Mums and Dads though so I might give him a chance.
Well of course that's wonderful and they are absolutely correct I'm sure. I haven't read any of the books yet, but I'm really looking forward to the bit where they make trigonometry 'so much fun' that you simply cannot wait to experience the pure elation that comes with understanding algorithms. Whatever they are.
No, I shall admit defeat and pass the educational baton to a better man. My husband.
Either that or exploit the old chestnut, 'Well I could tell you how to work out the multiplicative inverse of a number reciprocal, but you'll learn much much better if you try and work it out yourself.'
Yup, that'll work a treat.