Maths still gives me nightmares

The yearly brouhaha that accompanies the release of matric results revives an almost life-long nightmare that followed my own final matric year.

The yearly brouhaha that accompanies the release of matric results revives an almost life-long nightmare that followed my own final matric year.

You could call it post matric traumatic stress disorder.

It presents with repetitious dreams of having to sit a mathematics exam in a few hours when you know zilch. It manifests in rapid rise in the rate of the heartbeat, nightly sweat and little sleep, if any.

As I said in a previous column, I was so bad at maths I could take a text book into the exam room and still fail, because I would not know where to find the answers.

How do you find answers when you do not understand the questions?

Thank God the system allows for other subjects - otherwise one would be doomed to a life herding goats and shearing sheep on a farm in Vanderbijlpark.

Maths helped ruin what otherwise could have been a fairly tolerable stint at school for me. The system did not help at all, for it created the impression that those kids who were good at maths were intelligent and superior to us all - no matter how well we did in other subjects or what the results of the IQ tests suggested.

I once told you of my friend and colleague, who was a fairly intelligent bugger and a diligent worker. One day he crashed a company car and he had to produce his ID and driver's licence for the insurance claim.

His ID, obviously bogus, said he was born in 1959 and his licence (another forgery) was issued in 1969. That suggested he had got his licence when he was 10 years old. When his supervisor brought up this discrepancy, my friend saw red.

"What have the two dates got to do with each other? You are just trying to confuse me!"

He said he was being "attacked" because he was Shangaan.

"Shangaans are also people," he wailed.

It did not help. He was fired - all for mixing up his numbers.

If I thought I was bad at maths though, my old friend and mentor, the late Bra Tero Masina, was the pits. He was a great motor mechanic, counsellor and humanist - all without the benefit of any education. He called me Mfana kathishere (the teacher's boy) and spent many a Sunday afternoon preaching to me about the trials and tribulations of life, and how to tackle them.

That was in the last century, when calendar years were generally referred as 19s. For example, if you wanted my birthday, you'd ask me: "In 19-what were you born?"

One day Bra Tero approached me excitedly with a poser he thought would challenge the world in years to come.

"Tell me Mfana kathishere, it is 1982, right? We are counting ... 82, 83, 85. What are we going to do when we get to 99? Huh!"

Me: "We go to 2000."

Him: "Kanjani? We can't. We have to start all over again."

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