Friday, June 27, 2014

Vinets from the floor. Part one


Tomorrow is a novel writing day, so I have to burn off my blog posts now to free the brain cycles.

Part one Confessions of a mathtard.

I have never been good at arithmetic.  For reasons unclear to me I have staggered into adulthood needed a pen and paper for number crunching that many can fire off from the top of their heads.  Where this stems from is an open question, perhaps I could pin it on a unfound learning disability.  Or perhaps the time in grades 4 and 5 where I was in a special education group was when the rest of the class was learning those maths.  I also assume this time I spent out of the regular classroom is where the proper use of whom was explored, along with the correct uses of affect vs effect.  Lacking a time machine I can't say what it is I was not learning.

Certainly the time spent learning eye tracking must have taken some time away from regular studies, but at least I can read and don't have to bob my head like a pigeon to track an object, any more.  Thanks Father.   So somewhere along the way the rote learning and repeat grilling did not happen enough times to secure the knowledge and methods.  This is not to say I can not math, but that it fails me at the wrong times.

The scenario is repeated in many contexts.  A conversation goes quantitative. My attention wanders, the numbers are not registering with my brain as I await the conclusion.  Out of the blue the person who has been doing the computations asks me whats this number by this operator and the other number.  By the time I have secured the value of the first number and the identity of the operator I am receiving a look.  The look of why haven't I mathed yet. The moment that look hits me you will not get any math out of me.  I will be anxious about making mistakes, knowing full well that I often do.  My abacus goes limp under pressure.

For me math is a discrete thing. my brain does not like storing small things.  If caught of guard on a tired a day you will be lucky to get me to store the number without flipping the digits, to compute against a quality I can scarcely recall is near instant failure.  Math is also discrete in that if I have not been anticipating the doing of it, it will not engage.

On the subject of failing to retain small information packets.  Anyone who has ever spelled a word at me knows if I fail to start transcribing it before the second letter is announced I will not make it to the end without error.  If I am lucky the word will be learned as a series of keystrokes and I will not have to think about that.

Now back to the maths.  Enter the warehouse floor.  Much of my time is spent picking orders.  It is a task that suits me well, it is labour that rents my body and only a small part of my mind.  Sometimes I have time to think about what  The Object in my science fiction novel is.  Or how its existence drives the politics of the two main human political bodies.  Other times I have to zoom in on the finer details of the work, I am now much more comfortable remembering a 6 digit product number.  There is a zen to this.  Thanks to the isolation, stuff being shipped in dozens, and merchandise not always being in stock, I am mathing more.  Will this save me from being flummoxed by a request for a surprise computation, no.  But may be yes, I may just be learning.  I do know the narrow focus and the demands for retaining information make this job sit better in my mind than most work I have done.  It feels like I am rebuilding my attention span.

1 comment:

Ien in the Kootenays said...

Doing is learning. I became good at basic arithmetic during my waitressing years, when I had to add up bills. Long ago, no device.