Teaching myself math from the beginning

Awhile back I read a book called Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and its Consequences by John Allen Paulos where they argue that a lack of understanding of numbers is just as detrimental as being unable to read or write. If you were to tell someone that you are illiterate they would probably be shocked and feel sorry for you. They would wonder how you get through life and probably offer help to find you a way to learn those necessary skills. But, the same isn’t true if you tell someone you aren’t good at math. “I’m not a math person” or “I’m not a numbers person” or something similar is commonly uttered by people and no one bats an eye. People often nod in acceptance or openly agree claiming the same for themselves.

But, not being good with numbers can have serious consequences on how we see the world around us. Things that are seemingly magical or special can actually prove to be statistically likely when observed mathematically. AsI have been teaching myself to write code I have begun to see things much more formulaically and I have come to see just how much I don’t understand in mathematics. Growing up I was much more into writing and other creative forms of expression. I did just enough as far as math was concerned to get by in school, so that I could move on to the next grade.

It is funny how as I have gotten older and working in code how much more I enjoy mathematical processes over creative ones. I do still think of myself as a creative person, but my creativity will likely get expressed more often within my love of technology.

Writing code has shown me how with a better understanding of math I could be much better at writing code. In some lessons I have found that it was a mathematical concept that got in my way rather than the code I was trying to write. For example, I was going through some algorithm tests and needed to write a function to produce the factorial of a number. I spent more time on learning what a factorial was than on the code that made it happen.

So, I have decided to go back and teach myself mathematics. Doing a cursory search online I have decided to go with Khan Academy as it is free and looks to have a lot of content. I am starting with their Arithmetic Essentials course. Getting a good foundation / reminder of the basics seems like the best place to start. Then I can get into the fun stuff after I remind myself of how long division actually works. Doing these courses has been humbling and eye opening to how much I rely on a calculator.

If you are interested in learning math better I would suggest checking out this article on how one person taught themselves math as an adult. It was a great starting point for me. If you have done something similar or have other resources you think I should check out I would love to hear from you. Let me know in the comments below.

Now, I should get on with my next lesson.

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