Math is Hard


hustlemathIt’s no real secret that I went into HR because math is hard.

Back in the day, you didn’t need math to be good at Human Resources. I took the Tim Ferriss approach and outsourced math to the professionals in my life. I had a great team of partners in the Finance department who helped me read spreadsheets. When I had questions about Excel, I went to the IT guys. And I married a guy who is good at math and science.

Yes, I’m a feminist.

Unfortunately, times have changed. Smart people tell me that you must be “math literate” in order to work in Human Resources. Or anywhere. (Apparently you need to know numbers to get dogs out of the building.)

Sorry I ain’t got math skills, I just got steeze.

Can I defend myself? I am actually good at this thing called the internet — and doing basic calculations has never been easier. From buying paint to ordering shelf paper for my pantry, the cloud does the work for me.

But I will admit that I have lost my 5th grade skills and the ability to calculate basic stuff in my head. For example, I wanted to estimate my time for my Hustle Up the Hancock. I can do 126 floors in 30 minutes with no hands on the StairMaster. The Hancock building is 96 floors. What’s my time?

My husband (and math coach) gave me the answer: 22.85 minutes.

Then I said, “That doesn’t seem right.”

I took a day to think about it and came back and said, “I feel like we are missing something because decimals and seconds are different from one another. Decimals are 100s. Seconds are 60s. Don’t we have to times something by 60 — like the metric system?”

And Ken had an aneurysm. Right there. When he woke up, I got this fancy sheet of paper explaining unit conversions.

I know, I know.

But before you judge me too hard, there’s this: Only 40% of students in the fourth and eighth grades are proficient in math, according to a 2009 federal test. And I know you struggle to help your kids with their math homework. When in doubt, you rely on Google like everyone else.

Math is a language. You either use it or lose it. And the language of our society is Google and Wikipedia. At this point in my life, I am comfortable saying that it takes a village to do my math problems. And please stop lying — it takes a village to do yours, too.

But I wonder: Is being a googled learner enough? And if it’s not enough, how do we improve math proficiency in kids and adults?

(We probably don’t. We are screwed. Now excuse me while I go run up a building in 22:51 or better.)

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