A web developer from Melbourne, Australia

Back to School

How much will I suck at maths before census?

Uh, oh

I will preface this story, by stating what I didn’t know before: I live daily with the main symptoms of high functioning depression (Dysthymia), also known as persistent depressive disorder. I am constantly tired and irritable, I struggle to concentrate on tasks, I have unhealthy coping skills, constantly worry and avoid social situations.

So, here’s the story.

Mathematics is my kryptonite. I fear it. I have vivid memories of feeling like a failure in the classroom, learning primary maths – incapable of citing the times tables by rote. Flash forward to high school years, sitting at the table with some algebra homework that looked like a completely foreign language - because it was. I remember a conversation with my dad that summed up with a “maybe you just have more of a creative brain, than a logical one”.

I took some comfort in that outcome – and I applied myself more deeply in my creative pursuits like playing drums, learning guitar, producing music, painting, photography, etc.

Cautiously appreciative of maths

Maths has crept into my world slowly, but surely. I have an understanding that I feel is more practical than theoretical. I wish this would have been explained to me a little more clearly, a little earlier in life – but I appreciate how hard it is to get a bunch of kids to stop thinking about Nintendo for long enough to inject knowledge into their tiny, mushy brains.

Note duration values on a music staffFrom Drum Magazine.com

In music, I keep time well. I can count in compound time signatures, align things to a grid visually, divide pieces of music into their logical parts. I can read music notation, perhaps not as fluently as when I was studying – but it is a language that isn’t completely foreign to me. Symbols have meaning, and a huge part of music notation is mathematic. It’s unavoidable. From the theoretical, to the scientific – the way soundwaves propagate, reflect and reverberate.

The written notes can swirl up into the physical realm and be appreciated with the ears, eyes and body, in-sync. I am not confident, but I respect how important maths can be to our day to day lives.

Even more commonly, mathematics rears its beastly head when I am in programming land. One of my favourite things about programming are the times I get to feel like I am designing a calculator. Breaking things down into small, reasonable pieces, and using a computer for one of the simplest jobs it was supposed to do – but using human readable language to do so.

Programming has made mathematics infinitely more accessible to me. However, there are still times when I get stuck on a problem that takes longer than I would have anticipated. And over the years, I can’t help but have a desire for those times to be less frequent. So, I’ve quietly been thinking, somewhere at the back of my mind:

  • I suck at maths (Come to think of it, I have said this aloud, to my co-workers, my partner, etc. many times)
  • Life would be a little bit easier if I just had a grasp of the basics.

Jurassic Park animation of the Jeff Goldbloom quote
Life, uh, finds a way

Long story short – I applied for an Associate Degree of Information Technology at RMIT last week, but I overlooked a prerequisite and my application was denied. I need to be able show understanding of the fundamentals of mathematics before I can continue to study. Fair enough - I just don’t get to study, right? No biggie - I’m in a good place, professionally – nothing wrong with continuing down the path I’m already on.

But no – I’ve decided that’s not good enough. I want this, so I’m doing a bridging course. And that’s all this post is really about. I’m prepping now (it is suggested to have a grasp of Year 10 maths – which I’m not sure I do), and in one week, I start what is effectively year 11 and 12 maths.

If you’re wondering how depression will factor into all of this, well – it’s just going to be hard to juggle work, home life and school. But life should be about conquering fears, right?

Stay greasy,

Michael has been deving for 17 years!