Last night I caught a glimpse of one of the frames that the Comcast X1 platform goes into whenever it’s in screensaver mode. Most of them are just picturesque seasonal photos, but this one was explaining that if you forget the channel number you can just type the channel name on the remote and get to it that way. I know this feature well — when it comes to remembering numbers, I’m terrible! Even when I was little I often got 6’s and 8’s switched around, and in middle school social studies classes I became aware of a limited capacity to remember the specific years of events.
It’s funny, because when I was a kid I really liked math. In fourth grade I sometimes stayed after school or during recess to learn really basic algebra. Over the summer between fifth and sixth grade, my parents got me a computer program so I could take sixth grade math and when the school year started I could take the seventh grade class. In high school I didn’t enjoy Geometry at all but I hung in there through another year (Algebra 2/Trig) and didn’t burn out until Pre-Calc and AP Calc AB.
So today I was idly thinking of myself as numerically impaired, and then I caught myself and thought about something for the first time… What if I just never liked math as much as I thought I did? What if I just wanted to, because I wanted to be like and/or please my parents?
I was raised by two computer engineers in the Silicon Valley. Every now and then in high school, my mother would hear about an extra credit math test I could have taken before school and seem genuinely baffled by my disinterest in waking up early to do that. They’ve worked for companies you’d recognize the name of, and there was always a Polish calculator in the side table in our living room. For those of you who have never seen a Polish calculator, it looks like some sort of Star Trek tricorder. (For those of you who have never seen a Star Trek tricorder, you were not raised by this kind of nerds.)