My mom and sister-in-law sing in unison that the tea I serve never tastes good. Despite sincere attempts, I have failed to meet their standards. I am not even going to analyze whether their levels of expectation are too high. That’s a different story altogether. However, I am rather intrigued by the fact that if I can cook elaborate meals and try my hand at fancy desserts, why have I not been able to master the simple art of serving them a delightful cup. This brings me to think about how some people struggle with mundane chores but effortlessly complete difficult tasks.
I often feel that I should minimize references to my son on my blog posts, but rather unconsciously, he figures in most of my writings! Well how can I blame myself when he gives me so much food for thought? As I swim in the stream of reflections, I often wander back and forth to something that has failed to make sense to me these last 14 years. I’m still in search of a logical conclusion.
Algorithms, integrals, gradients, and other mathematical terms have never excited me, so when I saw my son doing his assignments for his college class of Applied Combinatorics, I was in complete awe. More so because it was such a giant leap and impressive progression from his illogical math sense of elementary school days. To be fair to him, I should be precise and put the time frame as the first two months of that school year.
When the concept of ‘greater than’ and ‘less than’ between 2 numbers was introduced in first grade, my 6 year old was at a complete loss. It was always a guessing game he played. I tried coming up with several strategies but miserably failed to make him understand the math. There were instances when nine out of ten times, he would correctly identify the greater or the lesser number and I would be thrilled that he had mastered the concept, only to realize in the very next second that the right answers came by a fluke. But here comes the mystery that I have not been able to solve all these years. When a bunch of numbers (be it ten numbers or more) were given to be arranged in either ascending or descending order, he performed with 100% accuracy. So what was the problem in identifying the greater number when just 2 were given?
My husband succeeded in this mission by coming up with the idea of the number line. As numbers moved to the right, they increased in value. The teaching aid worked, and he overcame that hurdle. Time has flown by, but I’m still looking for a solution to the riddle. What was the mental block that prevented someone from recognizing the greater of 2 numbers when he could do the harder math of arranging a bigger group of randomly given numbers in the correct sequence? Well, the mystery remains, and while my college-going boy is exploring advanced mathematical areas, I need to overcome my deficiency and look for tips and techniques to brew that perfect cup of tea this winter!