Struggles of the Mathematically Challenged | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 14, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, March 14, 2019

Struggles of the Mathematically Challenged

I have never been great at math. Let's just get that out of the way. Am I the one who looks around helplessly to friends when the waiter approaches with the bill because I have no clue what my share is? Yes. Do I get incredibly confused when the time is displayed anywhere in the 24 hour format? Absolutely. Am I just pretending to know more than my little brother does when I sit him down to work on his 7 times table? You bet.

Math and I have never been friends, no matter how much I tried to make things work. When numbers show up in any situation, a certain siren goes off somewhere in my brain that tells me I no longer have full understanding of the situation I'm in. It's not like I haven't tried. For a math activity in Year 7, my task was to mark out however much I thought one side of 2 square meters should be on a giant spread of newspaper. As I was slowly moving backwards marking with my pencil, that's when it hit me- I had no clue how big 2 square meters should be. Of course in that term's report card my teacher noted that I didn't exactly have great spatial skills. (In my defense I never claimed to have anything of the sort).

I was naïve enough up until my mid-teens to want to become an architect. I was fascinated by design and the poetry that was architecture. It wasn't until one fine morning in Year 9 when I suddenly realized that as a profession it would warrant certain skills that I may not possess.

Despite all of these inconveniences, the truly insulting moment is not being able to understand a math meme when it pops up in my newsfeed. There is something genuinely demeaning about not being able to laugh at a meme because you don't have the intellectual prowess to understand it. The meme is also likely to be shared by a page along the lines of 'mathematical memes for arithmetically sound teens'.  If not being 'arithmetically sound' is a crime then I am truly guilty.

It is awfully comforting to run into a successful person who has horrible math skills. It makes you believe there is hope for us in this world despite our inability to multiply double digit numbers mentally. I was sitting in an English class in university where the lecturer conducted the most profound session on a great novel and discussed how the ideals of that novel translated into the 21st century. Curious as to how much time remained of class, the lecturer looked at the clock mounted on the wall followed by an even more curious and blank look at the students. This brilliant man had no clue how to work backwards from the time class ends to figure out how much time we have left. True, these are not people you ideally want to be stuck in an escape room with but it gives me hope that society still accepts and offers jobs to the mathematically challenged. Perhaps there is hope for us after all.


Mrittika Anan Rahman is a daydreamer trying hard not to run into things while walking. Find her at

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