I’m terrible at math, still. Not the accoutrements of math. I can get an Excel spreadsheet to work and I can usually figure out how to turn all my budgetary issues into elaborate story problems.
I just cannot work numbers. I still have to think for many seconds about what 7+4 equals. I have a hard time multiplying by 8. When I was in fifth grade, we had to memorize our multiplication tables and then we’d take these tests where we had a minute to answer thirty multiplication problems. If we didn’t a certain amount of them correctly, we had to stay in for recess. I could get them right if I had enough time.
I just always ran out of time.
See, the way I learned to memorize the multiplication tables was by singing a little song and committing it to memory. One times one is one. One times two is two… eight times eight is sixty-four, etc. So, if I wanted to answer, say, what 8×7 was, I had to sing the whole set of eights to myself.
I missed out on a lot of lunchtime recesses and so I began to hate math, both because I was failing to pass these quizzes and because I was missing prime socializing time.
So, finally, one day, my dad brought me into the living room and opened the second drawer on the desk, which, up until that point, we were forbidden from touching at all. And there, in a package, was some notebook paper with Mickey Mouse in the corner.
Now, it would be fun to do math! I could do my math assignments on the Mickey Mouse paper. I could write my math teacher elaborate stories in the margins of my homework, because there, in the margins already, was Mickey.
It’s stupid, but it worked. I looked forward to doing my homework so that I could use the Mickey Mouse paper. Doing my homework lead me to improving my math skills–not to genius levels, but to “get to finally go outside for recess levels.” And that was good enough for me.