Reading lace charts and calculating measurements and gauge and yarn substitutions are all things that involve math and that seriously scare me.
Lest you think I jest, I was over at my parents' house last Sunday for Mother's Day and my dad handed me one of my old report cards he'd recently found. My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Richardson, (who, by the way, was an awesome teacher and actually won city-wide Teacher of the Year for 1976), apparently knew me all too well:
If you still can't read her "Teacher Comments", this is what she wrote:
"Mary is an excellent student. However, at times she becomes a little anxious about new ideas in math; but with effort and concentration she usually can master it."
What an eye-opener! I have no recollection of her writing that, but, boy, did she hit the nail right on the head. I never realized this until recently, but math anxiety has haunted me most of my life, to this very day.
After such a momentous pronouncement by Mrs. Richardson, you'd think I'd get the help I needed, but in 6th grade I changed schools and was put in a class where the teacher used "math contracts", or what I now call, "The lazy teacher's way to avoid actual teaching". How it worked was, at the beginning of the term, the teacher handed out a syllabus-type sheet with a list of an entire semester's worth of chapters to read and homework to perform and turn in, all to be done at the student's own speed, on their own time, and with absolutely no classroom instruction. All of the work was due at the end of the term, with very little regular accountability from week to week. To a kid with math anxiety who requires a lot of hand-holding in that particular subject area, this is a NIGHTMARE. I remember lying awake many many nights during that school year, agonizing about that !#$%^&* math contract. I think I may have even given myself an ulcer over it. I hated sixth grade.
To this day, anything involving numbers and math makes my thoughts turn fuzzy, my eyes glaze over and my stomach flip-flop. I can eventually do it with adequate results, but just like Mrs. Richardson wrote thirty years ago, I really have to make a concerted effort.
Several years ago, while I was still working in a clinical laboratory, my co-worker Sidney told me about the Teen Talk Barbie, who among other things in her vocabulary, said, "Math is hard; let's go shopping!" This created such a public outcry that Mattel pulled her off the shelves. After hearing that story, Sid & I used to laugh and say "Math is HARD!" in a high-pitched, nasally Barbie voice whenever we had to perform complicated calculations to prepare reagents or report out certain results. And I still say that in my head all the time, to this day, whenever I'm confronted with scary math.
I envy anyone for whom math is a breeze. And I now have more empathy for those who struggle with subjects that I always loved, like reading and science.
Reading/writing/spelling have always come as easily to me as the air I breathe, (that same 5th grade year I won the school spelling bee), but how I feel about math is probably very similar to how other folks feel about reading or science. I tutored a man from the Read Center for four years for just that reason - to try and share with him my love for the written word and to give him the help he may not have received as a kid in school. As he was struggling with a very real learning disability as well as the anxiety associated with it, I don't know if our sessions helped in the long run, but at least it got him reading a little bit every week, instead of avoiding it the way I avoid math.
Too bad they don't have a Math Center for adults with math anxiety! Or perhaps it requires help of a more "professional" nature, involving weekly sessions with someone with a couch and a PhD.
So you see, since knitting is my hobby and therefore something I do for enjoyment, I may not ever tackle the scary chart knitting. At least until I overcome my issues with math.
Math anxiety -- I wonder if they make a pill for that?