Algebra Is Hard. Common Sense Is Harder.

Rebecca handed me the homework from hell yesterday evening. Algebra, no less. I initially thought it was Geography and was a study of North African nations until I realised it was Maths. Or, in order to avoid confusing our loyal North American readership….Math. Armed with a lowly ‘C’ in my O Level Mathematics back when we used chalk and slate to ‘do our sums’ I endeavoured to assist.

Algebra is HARD! How they expect a 12 year old girl to get her head around it, I don’t know. Einstein and that bloke in the bath (Archimedes) would have struggled to compute the fiendish equations devised by Rebecca’s Year 8 Maths teacher. I scratched my head, furrowed my brow and sweated profusely until tentatively arriving at the answers. How I got there I’ll never know. Although Google helped.

I’m confident Rebecca will get there, though. She has taken to Junior High School with her usual enthusiasm, throwing herself into both academic and extra curricular activities. She has a work ethic second to none and can often me found voluntarily taking on extra work or reading, in addition to her allotted school work. She sets a great example to everyone else in the household.

Algebra is an acquired skill. With study and perseverance you can get better at it, and improve your understanding. I was queuing in the village shop this morning when I heard two of the older members of staff discussing their teenage colleagues who work most of the weekend shifts. ‘They’ve brains to burn, but no common sense’ remarked one of them. The other wholeheartedly agreed before they became aware of my presence at the till.

‘My wife always says that about me, and I’m 48’ I cheerily informed them. The two ladies looked at each other, before exploding into laughter. I made my purchase and walked away from them, both still chortling at my hilarious statement. It’s not for nothing that locals call me the Oscar Wilde of the village with my witty repartee. Oh alright then, nobody says that, I made that bit up.

It’s true though. Fionnuala says I am one of the most intelligent people she has ever met, but also one of the dumbest. I’m utterly impractical and if there is an awkward, convoluted way of doing something then I can be relied upon to stumble across it. I get out of taxis backwards, stuff like that. Write a 400 page novel, run a marathon, hold down a reasonably important job? No problem. Rewire a plug or change the tyre on a car? Errrrr….

There’s a less humorous side to this. I’m an appalling judge of character and throughout my life have made terrible choices, landing myself in all sorts of hot water in the process. I can only blame OCD and excess alcohol for so much. At the end of the day, I had to realise I’m a grown man and needed to take responsibility for my decisions and their consequences. Life is a constant battle to bolster this particular Achilles heel of mine.

You can’t teach common sense, like you can algebra. But I can learn from the many harsh lessons I have rightly experienced down the years because of my foolhardy nature. Scars have their value. I bear mine as a reminder of what can go wrong, if I press the self destruct button, and bring unnecessary pain on both my loved ones and myself. I’m learning. Slowly. Algebra is hard. Common sense is harder.

Do you struggle with common sense?

How good were you at algebra?

Can someone please explain the whole Maths/Math thing to me?

60 thoughts on “Algebra Is Hard. Common Sense Is Harder.

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  1. If Rebecca (or you, if you’d like to impress Rebecca) would like some assistance then please get in touch. I’d be more than happy to help. Maths was the only subject I was any good at at school – and I hesitate to say it, but it’s just common sense!?
    And it’s Pythagoras you need to blame (or thank) for that question – for any right angled triangle (indicated by that little square thingy in the corner) “The square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides”. I.e.
    x squared (sorry cannot do that squared number on my keypad) = 4 squared + 3 squared = 16 + 9 = 25
    Therefore x = 5. It’s the classic 3, 4, 5 triangle.
    QED (i.e. Quod Erat Demonstrandum, or Quite Easily Done as we maths nerds used to say, though usually at the end of proofs. Roughly translated, it means, “Thus it (the solution) has been shown” – but, since that’s linguistics, you probably knew that already). 😉

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  2. I never, ever figured out algebra. For the love of heaven, why deal with imaginary numbers? Aren’t real numbers malicious enough? Yet, I can (and do) figure out patterns and things for crafts that require a certain amount of “guesstimating”. *sigh*
    Common sense comes and goes – there are some things that I can do, bada-bing bada-boom, where my husband THE ENGINEER looks mildly bewildered, as if someone had replaced his shirt with his socks. Creativity on the fly… At the same time, there are things that he sees a solution to, that I’ve run circles around, swam through, tried to push off the edge of a cliff and immobilize in gelatine. It’s why we work well as a team.
    Math is evil.

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  3. Once upon a time, I was really good at math. Algebra, trig, geometry. Mere child’s play. Calculus? Come on, toss me a challenge.

    I guess if you don’t use it, you lose it because these days balancing my check book is right up there with computing a course to Mars via gravity assist from the inner planets. I’m sure in my life of detective work, fighting wars, and working with damaged people, I’ve left a slimy trail of equations and proofs behing as all that knowledge leaked out of my ears to be gone forever.

    That said, Common sense isn’t so common. We all have it, we just choose to override that gut feeling with our intellect. And that’s when we get in trouble because we’ve talked ourselves into a course of action we shouldn’t have.

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  4. I hate math! There I said it. I feel better. The sad reality is I homeschool my 13 year old and going through math right now is tedious. I have to re-learn everything before I can properly teach him. Thank God he’s smart and math comes pretty easy to him.
    My mom always told me as I child that I had common sense. Not sure that I do anymore. I rely on the grace of God every day.
    I enjoy your writing. God bless!

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  5. I think maths is abbreviation to math(ematic)s and here in the states, we cannot follow suit, it would be seen as… err… ha ha I have no clue, just jabbering. As for common sense. I do have that. Man people do not. But I don’t always exhibit it, but…. enough yammering!!

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  6. I loved algebra, struggled with geometry, but enjoyed it, and absolutely loathed calculus and trigonometry. Will Hunting, I am not. I do not remember much of what I learned at all and thankfully, I have not had to help my son with his math very much.

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  7. Different parts of the brain are responsible for different things. Don’t be too hard on yourself for the struggle. Awareness of our weaknesses is the best defense! I love learning and teaching, but I hate the way schools do not recognize the science of the brain and learning and expect all kids to learn the same things, at the same pace, in the same way. It’s cruel and inhuman. The really sad part is how stress and abuse in preschool years damage the brain and make learning more difficult.

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  8. “Here it is…” you post in the last photo of this post… and I’m doubled over with laughter… Algebra.🙄 My response? “I was an English major. You do the math (s)!” 😉.

    Hilarious and very relatable post!! Bravo!

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  9. Karma Police by Radiohead

    “Karma police
    Arrest this man
    He talks in Maths
    He buzzes like a fridge
    He’s like a de-tuned radio…..”

    I get the whole Maths/Math thing. I would love to say that the poetry of numbers is alive in my brain but, alas, I feel good if my chequebook balances. My girls have not yet come to my wife or me with homework we couldn’t tackle but high school remains to come. Hopefully, YouTube and Google will be there to bail us out if need be. In the meantime, enjoy one of my favourite songs by my absolute favourite group. https://youtu.be/ESYEod6c12E

    Liked by 1 person

  10. maths is magic. Maths makes up imaginary numbers and electricians use them to do real calculations and get useful results. I didn’t realise this at school. Maths was boring and something to get through. When I studied for a teaching qualification in my late 30s, I thought I’d need an update ‘New Maths’ had come and gone and heaven knew what else.) Primary maths investigations were a revelation and I was hooked. I still enjoy number and logic puzzles (not so much the actual calculations but – hey – we have calculators now!).
    Surely, common sense is (subconsciously) logic applied to experience – sometimes somebody else’s experience.
    Aren’t language and writing supposed to use the left side of the brain? as opposed to logic and maths which uses the right side – or have I got that the wrong way around? (I’m not sure which side the memory is supposed to reside, but mine seems to be quietly leaving the building.)

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  11. Well it depends on how you define common sense… 😊. I wish I had had a dad to help me with my Maths homework. I struggled until I got to Accounting and then got my first A+ in a Maths related subject.

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  12. ugh- math…..I suffer from math anxiety and who knows what else. As a homeschooling mom I am trying not to pass that on. Most likely will have to hire a tutor to help both her and I with math as she progresses along! Common sense is a little foreign to me too. But I am a pretty good judge of character and can sense the energy of the room upon walking into it. Just don’t ask me the perimeter and area of the room! hahahaha

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  13. I was horrible in Algebra – I got B tho…but simply because I had only A and B in my diploma. So my teacher of algebra felt kinda sorry and decided to give me a present lol because I told her I’m going to send my documents to college (she actually said to me that because of my poor levels in math I’ll never make it. She kinda said to me: you are stupid and you can’t do it.) But I did. I passed math exam for college (I got B lol but I studied almost full 3 weeks before exams, hard way, every day, at least 5 hrs a day, by myself). And also I had luck…I was very good in GEOMETRY (I had A in school lol). The exam was a mix of Geometry and Algebra and I guess that saved my ass 🙂
    400 pages novel? wow – great skills! who needs algebra, right? :))

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  14. And here you have followers, me with a Bachelor in math. 😆 ending up being a blogger/writer! Funny how the pen didn’t fall to far from the pencil. 😆 (corny joke!) 😆
    Pythagorean theorem.

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  15. 1. I have too much common sense to have ‘a good time.’

    2. I love algebra. (Sorry)

    3. In the U.S. of A. we say, “I’m taking a math class,” or, “I’m going into math.”
    Maybe it’s like calling a trim a ‘haircut’ and not a ‘hairscut?’

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  16. It is a common stigma that smart people lack common sense. I have been told this often (although I am not sure I agree). You might find this interesting: https://www.bakadesuyo.com/2012/07/why-do-some-smart-people-lack-common-sense/

    I excel in math. Algebra is one of my faves!

    To solve #3, always remember the Pythagorean Theorem; a^2 + b^2 = c^2. c is the hypotenuse; the long side opposite the right angle. In this example, let a = 3 cm and b = 4 cm since those are the given lengths. That gives us 3^2 + 4^2 = c^2. Simplify to 9 + 16 = c^2. Therefore c^2 = 25. Take the square root of both sides to solve for c by itself. The square root of 25 is 5. The answer is therefore 5 cm. Here is a good article from one of my favorite sites, Purple Math: https://www.purplemath.com/modules/pythagthm.htm

    Also important in solving algebraic equations for triangles is SOCAHTOA: https://www.purplemath.com/modules/pythagthm.htm

    Good luck!

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  17. Refuse to touch math like that with a ten foot pole. I also had to study a lot in order to pass my math, not fun. Common sense I tend to do better at. 🙂

    My mother on the other hand…xD

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