Why is Mathophobia OK? While I love you with all my heart, it is clear that there are others in this world who do not. Why do they feel this way?
More importantly, why do they feel that they can flaunt their hatred and fear openly? I read a fantastic quote today from a friend of yours named Petra Bonfert-Taylor that gave me my ticket to this train of thought.
Why do smart people enjoy saying that they are bad at math? Few people would consider proudly announcing that they are bad at writing or reading. We are passing on from generation to generation the phobia for mathematics . . . as a result, too many of us have lost the ability to examine a real-world problem, translate it into number, solve the problem and interpret the solution.
She is exactly right! For some reason, society has deemed it acceptable, even noble, to admit that they don’t get along with you. Your colleagues, Writing, Reading, and others, do not suffer the same persecution. Society has decided that you, for some reason, are an accepted target for their bigotry and bullying.
And it saddens me so.
How can they not see your beauty? How can they not see your ability to bring order from chaos? How can they not see the fun you could have together if only they could get past their mathophobia?
But, alas, society has stated its position.
Society has deemed you unworthy of its love and continues to impose that view on its children. All kids, at some point, find an adult role model: someone they want to be like. If that person proudly declares themself to be bad at math, the child hears and internalizes that. Then, when they have any kind of conflict with you, they remember what their mentor taught them: they instill in themselves mathophobia.
I suspect it’s a matter of false advertising.
Whenever people talk about you, my dearest Math, they talk about you in terms of pure practicality. They talk about you exclusively as though you were a tool to be used and cast aside. They see you as nothing but a means to an end.
Whenever people talk about you, they talk about numbers. They talk about calculations. All throughout elementary school, students are are shown this miniscule aspect of who you are. Then, when they get closer to middle school, that foundation starts to crumble. As those number start to slip away, they look anywhere they can for a life raft. They are given one in the form of a calculator.
And oh what a joy that tiny box becomes.
With the foundational knowledge that all you really are is the manipulation of numbers, they think that they have you mastered. They think that with this calculator in hand, there is no need to learn anything else about you. This tool gives them mastery over all numbers and, therefore, mastery over you.
They don’t realize that numbers are only a small part of you. They don’t realize that being able to add, subtract, multiply, and divide numbers and thinking you understand all of math is the same as knowing what someone’s thumb looks like and thinking that you can make life decisions for them.
What if, instead, things were different?
What if, instead of focusing on numbers, we focused on patterns?
What if, instead of flaunting our mathophobia, we got excited when our children met you?
What kind of a world would that be?
I hope I get to find out.