Numbers vs Maths

22 01 2019

I was always “good at maths.” At school, through til A Level’s it came to me easier than most other subjects, and I hugely enjoyed it – it wasn’t until university that it felt like a completely different subject that I just had no ability to do! I kinda assumed I’d just reached my limit, or I was an anomaly who just couldn’t handle the switch from working stuff out to proving stuff.

But on the way home tonight, I listened to this week’s Infinite Monkey Cage episode/podcast called “The Origin of Numbers.” During the last ten minutes or so, they said the following:

“I don’t know a single mathematician who’d say they were good at mental arithmetic.”

And it was like a revelation – I can do all the number bits, just the theory that I find hard. They talk about there being a distinction between numbers and mathematics.

They also talk about a condition called dyscalculia which they thought many mathematicians actually have, which is where you have problems with arithmetic. I feel like maybe I had the opposite to that!

So maybe, after all those years in education, I never was “good at maths”, I was good at numbers! I wonder if that explains why I am so into data, spreadsheets, processing, rather than any inclination at all to carry on in academia.

If you’re at all into maths or numbers, it’s a very interesting listen – go ahead!