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Negative Numbers « Sarah | This I Believe

Stashed in: #happiness, Math!

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a cadet of mine...

My first day of math class freshman year started with a short math quiz for placement purposes. The confident attitude I had at first was immediately squelched at problem number two, which looked something like this: -3*-5x=30. It was like asking me to solve world hunger, it was simply impossible for me to do at that time. My first day of public school started with a bang when I learned the number spectrum goes on for infinity in not only the positive direction, but the negative as well. As the year went on, I soon learned the magnitude of my ignorance went way beyond just numbers as I realized how incredibly limited my spectrum of life really was.

Before public school, I attended Mountain View Christian, an extremely small, private school that lacked diversity. I suffered with only three other girls in my grade. Beyond physical appearance, it seemed like each person didn’t have varying qualities to distinguish them from the next person. To be different would be social suicide, and with such a small student body, it was extremely important to get along with everyone. I had once questioned a lesson being taught during Bible hour, resulting in everyone turning and looking at me, awe struck, like I was some sort of criminal. During a game of “house” at recess my best friend and I wanted to be wizards instead of children and consequently spent the rest of recess playing by ourselves. Similarly to negative numbers, I had no idea just how much of life I was missing with my one sided perspective.

Public school has provided me with the opportunity to know what I believe by giving me the freedom of considering all perspectives. I’ve learned that true happiness comes from the opportunity to make your own choices and the freedom to be an individual. It’s ironic I chose to use math as a symbol for options and freedom, when math is all about rules and restrictions. It’s so black and white, while life has so much gray area. In math however, there is no limit to numbers and each one is completely different; just as in life there is no limit to opportunity. Each person, unique, no matter positive or negative, is the solution to some equation. For that, math and humanity are beautiful things.

My emersion into public school opened up a completely new world for me, not only in math, but in opportunity. It gave me the option of choosing friends. The option of forming my own opinions and aspirations. The option of using negative numbers. The option to be happy. I am abstract and I am an individual, and because of that, I am a success. I believe that being unique is the best thing you can be.

I love the line "math and humanity are beautiful things".

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