Why I Hate Arithmetic (and Why That’s Okay)

Hi, everyone. I’m Tom and I…hate arithmetic.

(Everyone: Hi, Tom!)

(Me: Hey.)

First of all, I’m not saying you shouldn’t know how to do arithmetic. It’s one of those things that you do every day, like shaving, tying your shoes and cleaning yourself. But that doesn’t mean you have to like it. (Ladies, men don’t like to shave, no matter what the TV commercials tell you. Men, ladies don’t like to shave either, If You Know What I Mean And I Think You Do.)

Besides, if arithmetic is supposed to be so wonderful, why have we spent thousands of years creating things to do it for us? We do it because we have to, not because we like it.

Now that we have given ourselves permission to admit that we all hate arithmetic, let’s take a look at why.

It’s not natural – Arithmetic is not an activity that plays to our strengths as humans. It’s repetitive and mechanical, which is why the majority of study consists of simple memorizing: multiplication tables, order of operator precedence and so forth. Math, on the other hand, uses our intuition, creativity, imagination and pattern-seeking skills. These are all qualities that make us truly human. If someone is better at arithmetic, on the other hand, it’s just because they have a better memory. (Or they use math to make arithmetic interesting.)

So buck up, America. You no longer have to feel guilty or dumb because you hate arithmetic. Everyone else does, too, and for good reason.


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