I hate math because I’m not very good at it. I never have been. The problem with math is, it is too rigid. They expect you to come up with the same answer EVERY time you do a problem. If they say 36X36 equals 1296. It has to always equal 1296. What fun is that? There’s no creativity. As a writer, I need to let my imagination run wild. Every now and then 36X36 should equal 492 or maybe 12,896. And often with me, it does, because I’m not very good at math.
I<p style=”text-indent:30px;”> n school my teachers encouraged me to take math courses to try and improve what couldn’t be improved. It was like trying to make a toad into a butterfly. I took basic algebra as a freshman, and for half the semester, I thought polynomial equations were problems thought up by the native people of Hawaii. I somehow made it through algebra, and while arraigning my curriculum for high school classes, a maniacal guidance counselor suggested I confront my math problem by taking geometry. I thought, what the heck. Anything has to be easier than algebra. Thinking back, that was like a man saying anything has to be better than a paper cut right before a camel kicks him in the crotch.
I could have taken that geometry course in a mud hut in Uganda with the teacher speaking nothing but Swahili and understood as much as I did taking it here in the good old USA. In fact, I think there were days when the teacher was speaking Swahili—I’m told it’s the national language of geometry. All I can remember about that geometry class, other than trying to sharpen the metal on a pencil eraser enough to slit my wrists, is the Pythagorean Theorem: The square of the hypotenuse is equivalent to the sum of the square of base and height of the triangle, a2+b2=c2. Proud of me? I still don’t have a clue what it means. I even used Mr. Pythagoras’s little theorem when I did accident investigations, but all I did then was plug numbers into equations and let the scientific calculator or computer do the work. We didn’t have that back when I was in school.
When I was in college, I had a professor who was always on me about showing all my work. Why? Was my logical question. I had all I could do to get an answer. What was the difference how I got it?
“Because,” he’d say in a monotone voice that could put you to sleep while sitting in a tub of ice water. “If you get the wrong answer, I want to know what you did wrong, and if you get the right answer, I want to know if you found it the correct way.”
So the ones I got wrong I would show my calculations, and the ones I got right, I would draw a little sketch of me peeking at the paper of the smart girl sitting next to me.
My wife is good at math and bookkeeping. She made a living doing it for years. Her job required accuracy and putting the decimal in the right place every time. She handled a lot of other people’s money and never went to prison once, so she must be good at it. (Either at being accurate or hiding the embezzlement. Just joking.)
None of the heroes or heroines in my books are super, duper egghead types. Most of them are slightly above average in intelligence but no more. They are street wise and good at their jobs. But they would struggle with integers. In my latest book A Death in a Snowstorm, I have an egghead forensic pathologist who paid for pre-med and med school by modeling. She knows polynomial and even Tahitian equations. She is a beautiful, smart woman who intimidates the heck out of our hero detective at so many different levels, and she’s not even the woman who gives him the biggest problems.
February 7th is the release date for the new novel. Mark it on your calendars.