After Math

November 18, 1896
Edith Bowen

If there is a subject I despise more than mathematics, I have yet to meet it. It is not the solving of sums, differences, quotients, or products which baffle me, those things make sense. No, the concept of measurements is the real problem. Only men could create a numerical system of divisional units of size which are based on randomly assigned functions of disconnected numbers.

An inch can be divided into 32 smaller pieces but 32 inches is 4 inches short of a yard which is equivalent to 3 feet where each foot is 12 inches or 384/32’s and that is just for length. Do not even get me started on tea spoons, table spoons, cups, quarts, pints and gallons! Suffice to say the confusion of these illogical systems defies the very definition of mathematics.

Mr. Rollings walked the front of the classroom slapping his yardstick against the side of his leg as he went. He was lecturing about the importance of understanding measurements in the kitchen, which I agree is an invaluable skill. I however cannot agree that the system is intuitive as he claims.

“A recipe requires 2 eggs, 4 cups of flour, 1 cup of sugar, ½ cup of milk, and 2 tablespoons of butter. The result is for a gathering of 4. Assuming you had a gathering of 32, convert the recipe as needed and adjust the units of measurements to best reflect the quantities needed.” Mr. Rollings said.

Inwardly, I groaned. I wrote the recipe down on my slate while I could still recall it and set to work doing the necessary math. As for converting units, that was a little more difficult. I have my notes for that but Mr. Rollings is insistent we learn the conversions without notes.

Mr. Rollings walked up and down the aisles of desks. He looked over all our shoulders one by one, gauging us and our command of the arithmetic and definitions required. Naturally, he paused when he came to my desk.

“Still having difficulty with units Miss Bowen?” He asked.

“Yes, sir.” I replied.

“I realize this material is difficult for you, but you must put forth the effort if you hope to teach others.”

“I am trying, sir.”

“Of that I have no doubt. Still, you are the only one in the class still struggling with this. Perhaps you should stay after class.” He said.

“Yes, sir.” I said resigned to my fate.

It seemed hardly a blink later and the tower bell was ringing. I gathered my things like the other girls but remained seated whilst they walked out the door. I expected a physical lesson soon, the kind most teachers call motivational. At least, he spared me the humiliation of suffering it in front of the others.

“Ah, Miss Bowen, alone at last.” Mr. Rollings said.

He sat on the desktop of the student desk directly in front of my and place his feet up on the chair. He folded his hands over his knees and looked at me through his wire spectacles. I twitched nervously with the feeling he was silently laughing at me.

“Now, how can I help you?” He asked.

I fluttered my eyelashes, shocked at the question.

“I-ah- I don’t know.” I said.

He nodded at me with a slight smile on his thin lips.

“You are not in trouble, Miss Bowen. I only wish to help you and barring a better suggestion from you, I do have a proposal.”

I had to swallow the lump in my throat before replying.

“Thank you. I welcome any help you can offer.” I said.

“I have found that some students learn best with practical experience. It is not always possible in the classroom to provide the real world examples necessary to make the connections between theory and practice. Therefore, I suggest we solicit Mrs. Carrington to allow us access to her kitchen.”

“The kitchen? I don’t understand.”

“Within the manor food is prepared for a great deal more people than most recipes are designed. By taking the mathematics lesson into the kitchen I can provide you a practical situation to connect with the lessons.”

“You’re going to teach me measuring unit conversions while cooking?” I asked.

I hope the incredulousness I was feeling stayed out of my tone.

“Yes, although I believe it is called baking.” Mr. Rollings replied.

“You know how?” I asked.

I know it was a rude question but it exited my lips before my brain could catch up.

“Shocking as it must seem, I do indeed Miss Bowen.”

I could not help but smile as the image of Mr. Rollings wearing an apron and covered in flour passed before my mental eyes.

“I will speak with Mrs. Carrington and make the arrangements.” I said.

He nodded and reached out to pat the top of my hand. I looked up at him still smiling and feeling relieved that my worst fears remained unrealized. Mr. Rollings winked at me.

“You see, I really don’t bite.” He said.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A very nice one :) He must have been in a good mood too.
I really like this one.