Plus one equals?

Happy Monday, here’s yesterday’s Sunday Times Column. Hope you have a good week. Make it count. (see, i made a sum joke.)


Back before there was the internet, we used to take most of our advice and inspiration from dead poets, politicians, visionaries, encyclopaedias and the back of Chappies wrappers. But these days anyone with a Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest account can inspire with their own home-grown words of wisdom.

Here’s one example of this kind of ‘wall wisdom’ that was posted on Facebook by a friend the other day:

It’s hilarious. I love it times a million, plus a thousand hundred, multiplied by seventeen dozen, and carry the two, whatever that equals.

Saying that I’m the kind of person who isn’t that good at maths would be like saying that Julius Malema may not get nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize; it’s a massive understatement. My six year old nephew answers times table sums quicker than I do. It’s a miracle I ever made it out of high school. In fact, I’m so bad with numbers I generally just take everyone’s word for it that I have ten fingers and ten toes. Who’s got the time or energy to try figure that one out?

I remember those people from school who ‘got’ maths. One in particular stands out in my mind. One year she got 108% for an exam. How is it possible to get more than a hundred percent for an exam you ask? Why are you asking me, I told you, I have no clue how numbers work.

It was always so easy for those people who got it. The teacher would slowly introduce us to the workings behind long division, or what y equals, or how a co-sine can fix your algebra, and I remember watching as one by one the light bulbs would go on in my fellow students heads, like they’d each opened a little fridge door up there. Meanwhile over on my side of the classroom, I had no idea what room in my brain the fridge was even in.

I believe part of the problem for those of us who are numerically challenged is that most of the time we’re so busy panicking about the fact that we definitely aren’t going to be able to ‘get it’, that there’s no room left in our brains to actually get busy ‘getting it’.

I wonder if we’re all born with these maths, or spelling, or relationship, or fashion strengths and weaknesses, or whether these things are just a result of conditioning and all the positive or negative reinforcements we receive from an early age?

It’s the same way that some people inherently know that wearing Crocs is wrong, or how some children are born knowing they’ll only be happy with a ball of some sort in each hand, while others know how to programme the PVR, in their sleep, with both hands tied behind their backs, before they turn three.

What I do know is this: contrary to what my standard five maths teacher used to tell me, fortunately I can somehow still survive in this world without a basic understanding of maths. Yes it takes me longer to count my change, so that’s me holding up the queue at Woolies while I check to make sure they didn’t shaft me on my five cent piece. Sorry! And yes I need someone to help me with my taxes every year (and by help me, I mean do them for me). And yes, if I was ever on a game show and the million dollar question was what is eight times seven? I would be the slumdog zeronaire, going home with nothing. And lastly, if one train leaves the station at 7:36am, travelling at 46km per hour, and another train leaves the same station at 7:52am, travelling at 52km per hour, and I need to get to work by 8:30am…. screw it, I can always take a taxi.

, ,

4 responses to “Plus one equals?”

  1. There are 10 kinds of people in this world, those who understand binary and those who don’t …


    Took me years to figure that out.
    peace lady!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *