52% intelligent. 9% modest. More monkey than bear.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I was just guessing at numbers and figures...

I reckon that most people have an instinctive feel for numbers or an instinctive feel for words; that you either see the world in terms of 1s and 0s or in terms of a-e-i-o-u. That's not to say that the one view excludes the other, just that I reckon that most people have a preference.

I'm a words man.

Always have been.

As long as I can remember, I've had a facility for and an enjoyment of words, and it's a standing joke in our family that I never travel anywhere without a book. It's also something of a running joke in my family that I'm hopeless at maths.

To be fair, this jibe has some foundation in the fact that for many years I really, really struggled with mathematics at school. As is the tradition for the brighter students at an English Prep School, at the age of thirteen, I was sent off to sit a number of exams to see if I would be considered for a scholarship to attend Public School. I was duly awarded a scholarship, and proudly took my place the next term with my fellow high achievers in the tops sets of almost every subject...... every subject except maths, that was. In maths, I was put into set five. Out of six. All of my colleagues from the top form were in the top set. On the plus side, this meant that to have been awarded a scholarship at all, I must had done extraordinarily well in my stronger subjects, but it was a bit unusual. I was never exactly embarrassed by this, as I was also convinced that I was a no-hoper in the subject, but it wasn't really very much fun.

As it happened, I came top of the set by absolutely miles. As maths became less sums and became more about simultaneous equations, trigonometry, matrices and the like, I found it got easier. I didn't work well with numbers, but now I had a calculator to deal with that and could focus on things that now required the manipulation of formulae and not simply the ability to work with numbers. I found it much, much easier, as if it now used a different part of the brain. In the summer exams that year, I finished the exam with more than half of the allotted time still to go. As he had nothing better to do, my teacher started marking the papers of those who had finished in the hour or so still to go. After a while, he turned round to the blackboard and started putting up the scores so far:

Thompson: 46%
SwissToni: 98%

I got one question wrong. I think the score rather demoralised those yet to finish.

I was duly moved up to set three, and finished top of that set too... eventually getting an "A" at GCSE and idly contemplating doing the A-Level (until I came to my senses).

I'm still a lot more comfortable with words though, and I love the sound of the English language (sadly only English... I'm not very good at other languages).

So I find it incredibly frustrating that I'm not very good at Scrabble. Or cryptic crosswords. Or the Countdown Conundrum. They're about words, aren't they? I should find these a breeze, shouldn't I? Other people expect me to be good at them too. So why can't I do them?

I reckon it's because anagrams and crosswords and scrabble are all tied up with numbers. I think there is something very numerical about looking at a mix of letters and calculating the words that you can create from them. Hell, Scrabble even assigns every letter a number....

I do have tremendous admiration for people who are good at these things, but the plain fact is that I would like to be good at these things and I'm not.

I'm such an egotist.

And for the record... that's not the reason I have no intention of ever joining Facebook.

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  • At 6:46 am, Blogger Tina said…

    Aaah - sound of penny dropping.

    When Lord Bargain recently did a post about his abhorence of sloppy lyrics, there were two distinct camps amongst the commenters, the words people and the music people and I came down firmly on the side of the music.

    B.Sc Mathematics, University of Nottingham, 1975

  • At 5:16 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I heart crosswords...

    Sometimes my grams calls me up for crossword advice from afar. :)

    Rubbish at maths though.

  • At 5:59 pm, Blogger Cat said…

    I'm definitely a words person - it took me four shots to get my maths o'grade. And that was with a tutor. I am, however, useless at crosswords, scrabble, word-searches and the rest. I have yet to attempt sudoko.

    (And I won't be joining Facebook either. Or Bebo. I deleted my MySpace page because of all the weirdos.)


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