I don’t know what predisposes each of us to our various strengths and weaknesses, be it genetics, a higher power, or simply fate. But whatever it is, it chose to give me an amazing aptitude for language arts… and absolutely zero skill for math.
I love to read and adore the writing process. I find it fun to fit words and sentences together just so, until they create a seamless narrative – not unlike putting together a puzzle. And I recognize that I have a talent for this, along with a penchant for spelling and grammar. It’s a gift I cherish, as writing is the one thing I feel I truly do well in life.
But while I may enjoy a love affair with words, I share a dysfunctional relationship with numbers. Trying to make sense of them, for me, is nothing short of translating a foreign language. Spreadsheets, budget reports, investment portfolios… they might as well all be written in Greek. At this point in my life, I would even be hard-pressed to solve a long division problem. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I have a mathematical learning disability that somehow slipped through the diagnostic cracks during my formative years.
As it is, I spent those years going head-to-head with my father in nightly homework battles involving geometry, fractions, and the very bane of my existence: Algebra. Oh, dear God, the variables.
The former CFO of a homebuilding corporation, Dad initially majored in chemical engineering in college before switching his focus to building construction – both of which involved copious amounts of math. He had made it all the way through advanced calculus and could translate numbers with the same ease with which I read and interpreted classic novels.
But he was a terrible tutor.
Night after night, Dad would sit by dispassionately as I grew increasingly frustrated by equations I couldn’t solve, the mathematic savant in him unable to understand why I just.couldn’t.get it.
“Why do I even need to know this crap?” I would rage.
“Because you just do,” he’d reply, utterly impassive. If you look up ‘stoic’ in the dictionary, you’ll find my father’s blank face gazing back at you.
“But WHY? I’m never going to have to use it!” I insisted. I planned to enter a career that utilized as little math as possible.
“That’s not true,” Dad would say. “You’ll have to use math every day throughout your life.”
“But I won’t have to know this,” I’d respond, waving at all the algebras. “And what math I do have to do, I’ll be able to perform using a calculator!”
“But you’ll have to know the mathematical processes,” Dad would counter with a logic I found maddening. At which point, I’d generally scream that OMG-he-just-didn’t-understand! before stomping upstairs to my room and hurling myself dramatically on the bed in typical teenage girl fashion.
And round and round we went, until my parents finally threw in the towel and hired a tutor. With her help, I managed to claw my way through high school math and graduate in good standing. Once in college, I took two prerequisite statistics courses – which I found surprisingly easy – before bidding goodbye to math classes forever as I moved on to my core curriculum in Mass Communications. And beyond basic addition and subtraction, balancing my checkbook, and calculating discounts during grocery runs and LOFT shopping sprees, I really haven’t had to use that much arithmetic in my adult life.
That said, I was recently involved in a discussion with some blogging friends about EdgeRank – otherwise known as Facebook’s pesky algorithm that tends to hide a significant portion of [non-sponsored] content on fan pages, with an average reach of only 7%.
The conversation centered around the ideal percentage of fans on any given page that should be “talking about this,” to use Facebook-speak. That is to say, the ideal percentage of people who like a page who are also interacting on it with comments, likes, and shares. Some people felt that 10-20% engagement was adequate, while others believed it should be more like 30-50%.
I was intrigued. I kept an eye on my page’s numbers, of course, but I had never bothered to calculate the percentage of people actually engaging in its content. So, I set out to determine this – not realizing at the time that it’s all displayed right there in my Insights (Facebook-speak for analytics).
There was just one problem…
I couldn’t remember how to calculate a percentage.
I knew it had to do with decimals. And division… or possibly multiplication. But for the life of me, I could not remember the equation I had to use to determine it.
So, I turned to Google.
How do I calculate a percentage? I asked.
The answer popped right up:
The equation is as follows: Given Amount divided by Total Amount multiplied by 100 equals Percentage.
And with that, I divided my people “talking about this” by my total number of page likes and… er, determined that I needed to seriously step up my focus on my blog’s Facebook page.
So in the end, I suppose my dad was right – it’s good to know how mathematical processes work for general life purposes.
Then again, I doubt he could have predicted 20 years ago that, one day, the solution to virtually any problem could be found by searching an almighty online answer grape.
I win, Dad.
Have you liked What She Said on Facebook? These days it’s a pretty hoppin’ place – give it a “like” and see for yourself.