illogical things are happening everyday

A college dropout – me? The National Merit Scholar, the one who dreamed about higher education?

problemThat didn’t make any sense.

Yet the first go-around, that’s what happened. I took on too much and burned out. Few close to me disputed the wisdom of my choice, but all agreed I should try again when I was ready.

It took three years to be ready, but when I was, I was. The second time, at a different university, was the charm, and when it comes to charm, no one had more than my ultra-geeky Logic professor.

Many of my fellow students foolishly and vocally didn’t see the need for Logic 101.

Actually, he wasn’t even a professor at the time; it was his first teaching experience after graduating with a doctorate in Philosophy.

He faced formidable odds. This was before today’s plethora of news programs with self-proclaimed experts whose statements deserve challenge at every turn. Many, if not most, of my fellow students foolishly and vocally didn’t see the need for Logic 101.

For me, initially it was a requirement to plough through, rather than something to grab hold of and internalize.  It turned out I couldn’t wait for the each class and the concepts I would take in. Today, I consciously apply what I learned on a regular basis.

You’d be surprised when you listen how many “experts” seem to forget, or perhaps ignore, logic.

For those unclear about what you learn in a logic course, it starts with this: “All cats are animals, but not all animals are cats”. You’d be surprised when you listen how many of the aforementioned “experts” seem to forget, or perhaps deliberately ignore, that logic.

To take the cats-animals-cats thinking a bit further, something like “Most (specific political party devotees) believe this…but not everyone who believes that is a (specific political party supporter)” escapes them.

Or, for sports fans, “if we’d scored that touchdown in the second quarter, we would have won.” Nuh-uh. Any real fan of football knows each play builds on the previous one, and scoring that touchdown would have created a different game. (Scoring a field goal without penalty in the last second, I’ll give you that one, even though technically the rule of logic wouldn’t).

So when you hear the pundits say, “my candidate in the last election never would have created the mess we’re in,” that simply is poor reasoning. You don’t know what your candidate might have done. But all sides smugly say it, or something similar, on a regular basis.

I’ll give you, in this last election, and after the last year, it’s hard to imagine any other candidate would have created the mess we’re in. But that’s speculation based on facts, not an absolute truth. It can’t be. It never happened.

That sort of simple logic is violated on a regular basis. Other practical elements are equally good to know.

Okay, I can’t necessarily apply anything I learned in that course to the logic of my decision to drop out the first time. Yet it clearly was the right choice. Or was it? I’ll never know, logically speaking, because I’ll never know what would have happened if I stuck with it.


image credit: Question marks © tiero – Dollar Photo Club; Black Hole © vchalup — stock.adobe.com

 

Mature Process

So often I’ve compared a given experience to learning to drive a standard. You know, with the clutch.

Today’s new drivers aren’t as likely to learn to drive this way, since most new cars today are automatic (and have been for a long time). But once upon a time, at least in my neighborhood, if you were a teenager and wanted a car, you took your official driving lessons in an automatic (the school provided  lessons once you passed Safety Ed.) and a family member took on the task of teaching you to drive a 5-speed.

You learned because a standard cost about 25 percent less than an automatic. That’s a lot of money with that price tag. Besides, there’s more power in shifting gears. More control. More attitude.

However, it’s a frustrating process. You know what you’re supposed to do, you swear you’re doing it and still it doesn’t work. That’s not the only swearing, typically. Your first teacher gives up after sharing a few choice words and passes the task on to the next unsuspecting volunteer.

frustrationThen one day, you get it. It works. You no longer are stopped at a green light, praying you won’t stall again. There’s the occasional slip-up, sure, but you now know how to drive a standard.

Other learning experiences mimic that process. For me, it was math.  Particularly algebra. I struggled and struggled until miraculously, the light broke through. Lucky for me, my high school math teacher watched my process and understood why I went from Ds to As, virtually overnight.

I wasn’t so lucky in college, but that’s another story for another day.

I’ve seen men and women take on knitting, something that is second nature to me, and talk themselves through every labored stitch. “I’ll never get it,” they might moan, but I assure them, it will happen. Just keep breaking in those new pathways in the brain.

Driving, calculating, knitting.  It takes time, but the battle is part of the joy. By the way, I impressed the heck out of a KFC worker a few years back when I pulled up in my 5-speed Corolla. “I’ve never seen a woman drive a standard,” he marveled. Ah, the passing of time. The needs, and therefore the skills, change.

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So whatever you’re learning, stay with it until that breakthrough.  Actually, I’m not going to say never give up. There is always a time to move on. Just don’t give up before the process is complete, and your frustration has matured and born fruit.


Clutch

Image Credits: (Light Bulbs) © Dmitry Guzhanin – stock.adobe.com; (Frustrated Woman) © ivector — stock.adobe.com; (Woman in Car) courtesy of Pixabay.

 

Counting Every Moment

Apparently being good in math isn’t considered American.

Not by the rest of the world, anyway. Yes, I’m making broad generalizations, and stereotyping can be a dangerous choice, we all know that. When I was young, people from Poland and Italy were assumed to be less intelligent. The number of jokes I heard denigrating my Polish ancestry made an impression, and not a positive one.

So I’m sensitive to such comments as, “well, of course she’s good in math, she IS Chinese,” even if it’s a “good” stereotype (no such thing, but that’s for another post). Still, you can’t ignore the statistics. Asian countries place highest in math scores (well, all education scores, for that matter) and second-generation Asian-American students do better in math classes as well.

American students are way down the list. You’ve heard it before, and there are many explanations. A few actually make sense without being demeaning to anyone.

Are Asians inherently smarter? I couldn’t find any evidence of such, but two things stood out to me when I read up on this subject: one, they value education in a different way than Americans do, and two, they integrate math into everyday conversations with their little ones. Americans prize reading to their children, and there’s nothing to fault there. In fact, that’s a wonderful tradition to start in virtually any family.

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There are countless ways to have fun with math.

But how many Americans make it a habit of getting on the elevator and saying to their children, “we’re getting on floor 3 and going to floor 8. How many floors is that?” One of my favorite fellow bloggers has a fantastic blog dedicated to this concept, Journey to Help Children With Math. She’s taking a break right now (she just finished her M. Ed. in Math Elementary Education!), but there are plenty of past posts with great ideas for parents.

You can’t make your kids focus on education at every moment, but you can make learning fun. Even without children at home, I struggle with the balance between work and play for young students. We all need our down time, and I see so much pressure in even the earliest grades with volumes of homework and projects. Some kids thrive on that pressure, while others break. I’ve seen both sides in my own family.

That’s perhaps an American way of thinking. No apologies.

Another article I read stated Asian countries teach a more intuitive style of learning math, and (note I’m quoting here) the “top schools” in America use that same method. If that’s the case, maybe more American schools — and their students — would benefit from making a change.

During the entire time I was a student, from kindergarten to college, I would initially struggle with my math lessons, then one day, I would have a breakthrough and “get it.” Today I have a fairly good “math mind,” although a lot of that I credit to the Schoolhouse Rock episodes that would play on Saturday morning between episodes of my favorite cartoons.

Even as I’m writing I hesitate to suggest any changes, since I’m no expert and read a whopping total of five articles on this subject. And I do know of some modifications schools have made in the way they teach other subjects that shock me. In particular, I’ve heard of teachers who instruct children to spell words the way they sound, and trust they’ll learn the correct spelling as they grow older. We’re talking second and third graders who are told “edyookashun” is acceptable. So changes should be made with care and a fair level of caution.

But I do think talking to your children in everyday conversation about math is a good thing. Of course as they get older, your own knowledge of math may need to expand.

Math is relevant. You use it in everyday life, from counting change to calculating how much you can get done in an hour to figuring out how far you can go on 1/3 of a tank of gas. That’s just the basics. Virtually every profession requires some math skills, particularly anything to do with anything computer-related.

Math counts.


Images courtesy of Pixabay

Outlier