Math vs. English

School-Blackboard-27m18s3What’s your favorite subject?

Math… and then English.

I have no idea what are the usual reasons kids have when they decide what’s their favorite subject but in my case, I was in 4th grade when I decided that Math will get that prestigious title in my slam book entries. That was the time when I realized I was actually better at it compared to how I did on my other subjects. (Please note, that I was (or am? I’m not sure) quite smart, so I was pretty good on most of my subjects. No biggie.)

To be more specific, I started looking forward to Math period when we started spending the first few minutes of class answering drill cards. You know, those cards with windows and you try to answer as many equations as you can in a certain amount of time? Yep, that’s the one. Of course, some would just memorize the answers in order to mechanically write them down without having to think of the Mathematics of it all but I wasn’t one of those people. I accomplished my drill cards through mental math and I was darn proud of myself for that.

Even though I probably inherited my parents’ Math skills, it’s my grade school teachers whom I really have to thank for developing them. They are the reason why I was the only one who could answer my high school Math teacher’s question about rational and irrational numbers and they are the reason why I never freak out when I encounter fractions and decimal points.

English is my second choice as my favorite subject primarily because I love to read. The short stories we had to read during our Reading subjects were the makings of an obsessive reading hobby. This was amplified when my friend introduced me to Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield from Sweet Valley High. Jessica and Elizabeth then introduced me to the Baby-Sitters Club, Nancy Drew and then, of course, to Harry Potter. I will be forever grateful that the school I went to had a very extensive collection of young adult novels because I got to read a lot of books without having to persuade my dad to shell out a few bucks.

My obsession with reading lead me to writing. If I were to read my essays when I was in fourth grade, I would probably cringe a whole lot. However, in the mind of my younger self, I had the skills of a future published author. I wrote my diary as if I were writing a cute teen novel about a cool girl trying to get through everyday problems like forgetting her lunch money or trying to get away with creating her own email. I started blogging and although some posts were wRitTen LiKe tHis, the content was pretty good for someone at that age.

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Now, why exactly am I going on about my love for Math and English? It’s because after twenty years of studying, I have finally realized the REAL reason why I will always say that Math is my favorite subject instead of English. It’s not because I love numbers. And it’s not because I think that Math is a harder subject than English because I can name at least ten people off the top of my head who are good in Math but TERRIBLE in English.

The reason is quite simple; I hate the way English is graded by teachers.

In Math, there are several ways to get to the right answer. For example, when you need to multiply 10 to 12, you could try doing the long method by adding 10 twelve times to itself or you could just multiply the numbers using multiplication and you’ll still get the same correct answer. If the problem didn’t specify which method you could use, you would get a point regardless of how you got to your answer.

In English, that’s not the case. You have to consider the personal preference of your teacher as a factor. Even if you spelled everything correctly, chose all the appropriate words, arranged your thoughts systematically, used proper grammar and everything else that you can do, there is still the possibility that you won’t get a perfect score.

If your teacher isn’t very familiar with a word you used, you’d get a red mark on your paper for using flowery words even if you’ve encountered that word several times already from the books you’ve read. If your teacher doesn’t appreciate how descriptive you are, you’d get comments about not being direct to the point. However, if a person who likes a lot of description came across your work, you’d get a thumbs up!

I hate the subjectivity of English. In Math, as long as I’ve shown my solution and the answer I’ve boxed is correct, I’d automatically get points and you cannot question that. In English, there’s more than a hundred possible ways you can critique ANYTHING and make ANYTHING look bad.

Some people might say, “They’re just grades! Big deal!” Those people are delusional. You can say all you want about grades not making the person but we all know that when you get to The Real World, you have to endure several raised eyebrows and probing questions about that 5 you got on your transcript.  And besides, I love getting praised for my work. Who doesn’t enjoy seeing that red “Good Job!” stamp on your exam paper?

As much as I’m impressed with people who are great at speaking and writing in English (well, speaking and writing in general, actually. I also have great admiration for people who have good command of the Filipino language) and as much as I would prefer a friend who likes to read, there’s just no way English would be my favorite subject.

And yes, even after finding out that I’m not as good in Math as I thought I was, it’s still going to be ‘Math’ written in the ‘Favorite subject’ field in that Hello Kitty slam book.

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6 thoughts on “Math vs. English

  1. I am terrible at Math. I had to take Advanced Math in Junior College, and I was consistently at the bottom 10th percentile of my cohort. I attribute my incompetency in Math to 2 reasons. I’m a very visual person, and numbers don’t come to me in images. Secondly, I usually do not bother putting in effort for subjects I am not interested in.

    English on the other hand. My favourite, simply because I didn’t have to study. I always held the notion that in English, either you could do it or you can’t. It’s very subjective indeed. But that’s why I love it. The bell curve always favoured me simply because of its subjectiveness. And in my experience, teachers who do not get my flowery words just leave them be. They do hate it when their ignorance shows.

    • I hate teachers who think the know everything. They always spew the “You learn from me and I’ll learn from you” bullshit but when they do come across something they’ve never encountered before, they go on the defensive. LOL

  2. You make a really good point about English being graded subjectively. I’m in awe of your math skills. I was terrible in math in school. I was better helping my sons figure out word problems when I was free to get to the solution my own way using logic.

    • You made me realize that I do have to thank my English skills for helping me on Math word problems. I know some people who have a hard time with them, despite their Math skills, because they have a hard time deciphering what the problem is all about. 🙂

      I love teaching my little sister! It gives me great practice (if ever I’ll have a kid myself) and it keeps my mind refreshed so I don’t forget the basics. 🙂

  3. Oh my gosh Sweet Valley. Loved that.

    I have a friend who’s teaching English now and he feels equally as bothered that grading papers/stories is so subjective. Like he knows his bias is showing. But I guess the beauty and the flip side of literature and papers is how much it can touch you in a more personal level. As much as I’m still able to apply (some) math concepts now and everywhere, the short stories I’ve read during English hold a very special place in my heart. And well, I’ve never been exceptionally good at Math either (lol). But yeah, grading for English subjects sucks.

    • English teachers should have very specific rubrics to avoid biased grades. LOL Someone should start developing that. Haha.

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