It’s Life not a Math Problem (or is it)

A few weeks ago I sat in my office and listened to Jenn tutoring math. The subject was either calculus or algebra, to be honest I wasn’t really paying attention, I was doing my own work. However, I suddenly hear Jenn ask, what do these triangles have in common. Before I could stop myself I shouted, ‘they’re both triangles’ and everyone laughed.

Since that day I have considered how often I use math on a daily basis. As the kid who was once told by a teacher I was ‘too stupid’ to do math, I avoid the topic as much as possible. (Just for the record, thank to the encouragement of the next year’s teacher THIS ‘too stupid’ kid took and passed several advanced math classes, but that is another blog post). While I am no math whiz, I do enjoy the logical way math operates.

Math has set rules. If you follow those rules you will get the same answer, EVERY time.

Analytical reasoning is the primary tool used in solving problems of every kind, including math problems. When I was in school I, like many people hated the dreaded ‘word problem’. Why? Because not only did it require I do math (bleck) I first had to determine the problem before I could solve for an answer.

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your view of math), life is not a math problem. Or is it? Solving problems is something that we all do everyday for as long as we live. It can be a very rewarding, especially when the situation requires some measure of creativity in finding a solution.

Here are some Math Strategies, you can apply to life

1. Do Something – You can’t solve a problem by being so overwhelmed that you fear action. When confronted by a life problem start doing something. There are always barriers, and people caught up on staring at the barrier never try to figure a way around. They’re not sure what to do, so they do nothing. Meanwhile, the successful people I know just start doing things. They take steps. Even if they aren’t always the right ones, they make progress. They adjust course as they go along, but they move forward. They do something!

2. Try Small Cases. Many problems in math revolve around X. X is an abstract. Sometimes it helps to solve the problem by substitution (example: Substitute 1 for X. then 2. And then 3, etc) and see how the problem behaves.

While very much like strategy 1(do something) this give a clearer path for what to do and something that’s relatively easy to try. Don’t just leap in with one big bet. Start with a few small tests, look for the pattern, tweak and test again. Once you’ve unlocked the pattern: only then do you go big. Your odds of success increase dramatically.

3. Show not Tell. Math teachers always make you show your work.  You can’t just throw out an answer without the proof to back it up. No doubt you have met people who talk a good game but once they have the job or gain your trust, you realize they don’t have the knowledge or work ethic to back it up. Well, in the real world it is time to put up or shut up.

But the difference between being a stuffed shirt and someone who truly makes a difference in the world is the substance behind the rhetoric. Be a person of substance.



4. Don’t lose sight of your goal. I have a tendency to get so excited when I figure out a hard problem that I stop to celebrate. Unfortunately, on a math test and in real life the timer doesn’t stop running because I figured something out!

You MUST keep going on to the next problem.

However, in life (unlike math), today you may follow a certain set of steps and get one answer and tomorrow you might get something completely different.  You see, in life there is always a variable; other people, different circumstances or timing. These variables make the outcome unpredictable and sometimes unnerving. But if you’re doing something, testing and adjusting, you have substance and you’re steadily moving toward your goal – you can conquer any of life’s problems (even math word problems).

About Gayle

Gayle is a Social Media Enthusiast and Consultant with Biz Buzz Social Media Marketing; co-owner of Glynne's Soaps; a dalmatian rescuer; genealogist and member of the Daughters of the Revolution (DAR) and of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC); a Cubs Fanatic; hopeful bagpiper; purveyor of positive; and a curious seeker of life.
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