Wednesday, July 15, 2009

If you don't use it....

Do you remember the multiplication table?
Quick, without using a calculator, what's 6x7? 8x4? 9x4?

I know we were all supposed to have memorized that chart and know it in our sleep. If you can, like my husband, still spout off random multiples- don't mention it. Really. I'd rather go with my theory that we've all let that particular skill lapse. I mean, that's what calculators are for, right?

Why do I bring this up?

Even before I finished my master's in communication (two years ago), I've been thinking of shifting my education focus from English and education to something math based. I've been working with numbers now for...7 years or so. I LIKE doing analysis and hunting down the real meaning of statistics. I like discovering new formulas in Excel.

But I feel lacking in the higher math requirements. And it's been....more than ten years since my last math class, which was precal (and I barely passed it). I didn't take math seriously then. I enjoyed some of it (I really got a kick out of solving for geometry problems), and was hopelessly lost on some of it (um, trig anyone?).

So after much thought, I've decided to start studying to take a graduate entrance exam. And do you know they have real math problems on those things? I went to this site and tried their math sample...and the few questions I had time to answer I got wrong. So then I went to my favorite source for everything,, and found a book called All The Math You'll Ever Need. And in the first chapter is the multiplication table. Now, I can fill in that table no problem. Cause when it's in a table folks, you can use addition. Let's face it, you know that 6 is going to have a row that looks like: 6_12_18_24_30_36_42 and so on. Just add six to the previous number if you're stuck. But if someone randomly asks you for 7x8, that takes more thought.

I know basically how to get perimeters of shapes, areas of shapes, and with a little prompting might remember volume. I can solve for x most of the time. But I've been using a calculator for so much of the math that I find it hard to do the old fashioned way. And on these tests there is no calculator use allowed.

Thankfully I'm giving myself plenty of time. I am not on any schedule to take the test, though I do have a long term plan on when I'd like to start taking classes. Correlation and Regression don't phase me (of course, I'm talking about doing it in Excel). But basic math? Like not in Excel and not on a calculator? I feel pretty smart when I calculate the tip in my head!

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