Fond are the memories of my school days, peppered with exciting adventures and fuelled by a love of learning that remains with me today. And to the latter I owe a debt of gratitude to my grade five teacher Miss Evans. A feisty spinster was she with a zest for life like no other, she skilfully imbued in her students a thirst for knowledge that was so cleverly and passively delivered that we never knew what hit us. And we even loved doing our homework!
But it was mathematics that became my passion, as boring as it seemed to many, the logic of it all provided great comfort and stability to this bright eyed and impressionable 10 year old. I loved the way that one plus one would always equal two and that once you had grasped the formulas, everything else fell into place. One could then easily tackle the complex equations they had never before encountered simply by remembering the formula. Granted, there were exceptions, but they too came with their own laws of logic.
Each student had their own mathematics work book that provided for self-paced learning experience and an honesty system for correction, as the answers were all hidden away in the not-too-secret back of the book. Each chapter tackled everything from tricky decimals to abstract algebra and all variables in between, but a clearly defined logic helped my enquiring mind navigate successfully the minefield of problems posed.
So how then did I cope when my work book tossed a question that defied all logic, rhyme or reason; a question that no predetermined formula could correctly provide the answer to (short of master mindreader Darren Brown providing edits)?
One such question was, ‘What is the sum of your handspan plus the length of your foot? Answer please in feet and inches.’ I remember thumbing my way to the back of the book, eager to know just how the pages could ever foretell my answer and even those of Jenny, Betty and Debbie sitting off to my side. But there printed forth were the words that would provide an answer to not only this question but so to many of life’s little curly ones as well, ‘Your answer may vary’.
The point of this simple exercise and, I guess more profoundly, the challenge of life is getting people to think. And so, it is in this spirit I pose a very simple question, “If we could live happy and healthy lives without harming others, why wouldn’t we?” And while your answer may vary, it will most certainly define who you are.