When I graduated from high school, I figured my days of math and science were done. I went to a college without core requirements so I majored in Psychology and went on with my life. For the most part I am able to function very well without knowing anything about atoms or trigonometry.Recently, however, my ignorance has come up and given me an open hand slap; once in a book, and another while doing first-grade math.
For me, math is like that friend you haven’t seen in twenty years who you owe something two because they said they’d never tell anyone about that night and they didn’t. Then one day, math shows up on your doorstep and says, “Hey, I just moved to your city and don’t have a place yet. Can I crash on your couch?” And you’re like, “Ok.” Then weeks later they’re still there, and you say to your spouse, “Why is Math still here?” And they say, “Oh, I asked them to move in.” And you say, “What? Shit. Okay, Math. You can go bunk with Science.”
As part of the awesome Blogging for Books program I do (because I have a price, and that price is free books) I get to choose one of a large selection of books to read. This time around I decided to bust out of my wheelhouse and try something different. I’d heard a lot of good stuff about this book called The Martian, which is about an astronaut who gets accidentally abandoned on Mars and his attempts to get home. Ok! I thought. I liked Gravity. Maybe this will work!
It mostly did, and I say mostly because I am someone who is willing to run my eyes over text that I don’t understand and shrug it off instead of worrying about what it means. Cuz’ I am what you call, “intellectually lazy.” The Martian is a really, really good book. It’s the great mix of hideously scientific stuff that my eyes move over while my brain takes a nap, and a writer who has a hilarious sense of humor. Here is how I read the entire book:
I can create the O2 easily enough. It takes twenty hours for the MAV fuel plant to fill its 10-liter tank with CO2. The oxygenator can turn into O2, then the atmospheric regulator will se the O2 content in the HAB is high, and pull it out of the air, storing it in the main O2 tanks. They’ll fill up, so I’ll have to transfer O2 over to the rover’s tanks and even the space suit tanks as necessary.
As you can see, this plan provides many opportunities for me ti die in a fiery explosion…If I make any mistakes, there’ll be nothing left but the “Mark Watney Memorial Crater” where the HAB once stood…If you asked every engineer at NASA what the worst scenario for the HAB was, they’d all answer, “fire.” If you asked them what the result would be, they’d answer, “death by fire.”
All in all it’s an interesting, funny book, but I had no idea what was going on for about a third of it. I enjoyed it anyway, because that’s the way life is when you’re an idiot.
I’d also like to give a big shout-out to common core math, which I was introduced to this week with problems like this: “7-5. We know that 5-5 is zero. So we can take that 5-5=0, which leaves us with 2, so 7-5 =2.” I’m not going to kid you — the first four or five times I read that I thought that perhaps this math worksheet had been translated from English into Japanese and then back into English and that was what I was reading. I said to my husband, “Why can’t 7-5 just equal 2? Why can’t it just equal 2?!” But then a few days later I was doing some more problems with my kids when I realized that Common Core math is exactly the kind of math I have been doing in my head for years. When presented with a problem that involves addition or subtraction in the tens, I always do the easy part first, which is adding/subtracting the tens, and then I add/subtract the ones.
I can totally do first-grade math. This is one of my proudest moments; I was pretty sure that this was not the way things were going to go down.
(Image via wikipedia)