In a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon, the little boy Calvin is attempting to do his math homework. The math book’s instructions say, “A bushel is a unit of weight equal to four pecks.”
Calvin looks at his stuffed tiger friend and asks, “What’s a peck?”
Hobbes answers, “A quick smooch.”
For a moment Calvin looks at the pages in his math book and then quips, “You know, I don’t understand math at all.” (41)
Which is why I suspect Bill Watterson was hiding in my sixth-grade classroom taking notes on my math work, because Calvin understands math about as much as I did. Needless to say, I hated math. Not as much as I hated, say, Lenin, but more often.
For example, a word problem may have asked to add a couple numbers then subtract a third from that, divide by yet another number, and then ask how many apples are left. I didn’t get any extra credit for, “All of the ones that aren’t gone.”
Perhaps my aversion to math may have something to do with the fact that I was (and still am) lazy as snail snot. In other subjects, such as History, I could sort of fake my way through. If we were studying world explorers, for example, and the teacher asked me who Columbus was, I could say that basically he was this dude who sailed around some oceans and discovered some lands. Lots of people were sailing around the world during the time of world explorers so it was hard not to nail it. But that just didn’t cut it with math. No math answer is basically this or that. Either it’s right or it’s wrong. This, as you might imagine, would have required work to get correct.
Which is similar to another subject I was habitually poor at; Spelling. The teacher would look up from grading papers and say, “Darren, you spelled your name wrong.”
“No way! How did I spell it?” I asked.
At least my sixth-grade class laughed a lot.
Watterson, Bill. Calvin and Hobbes. Universal Press Syndicate, 1987.