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The essence of mathematics is not to make simple things complicated, but to make complicated things simple. ~S. Gudder


His eyes squinted ice-grey with anger.
His mouth flat lined.

Disagreeing with my father was nothing new.
This time however felt different.

I looked at him eye to eye. I was granite. Silent.
Then I stood.
He looked up at me.
I looked down at him.
He said, “I’m leaving. I will call you.”
He left.


Dad put the book of times-tables in my hand. Then he marched me to my bedroom.
Don’t come out till you’ve learnt the sevens he’d warn.
All of them.
Then he closed my door.

I sat on my yellow chenille bedspread and looked at the numbers and crosses, I watched them blur.
Then I looked out my window.
Then I looked at my books. Arranged alphabetically.
I contemplated again if the Nancy Drew novels should now go under N or D since I’d discovered Carolyn Keene was a pseudonym. I decided on D.
I looked out the window again. Cursed the number seven.
Used the rudest words I knew.

Precisely one hour later he summoned me.
Then he stood me in the line of number-fire.

5 times 7!
8 times 7!
7 times 9!

In the beginning I didn’t hate math.

I just hated standing in front of my father…
getting the answers wrong
imagining that he thought I was a failure.


I watch my husband sit with my daughter as she does her math homework.
She runs her fingers up and down a strand of her hair as he explains fractions by pizza slices. She writes down the answer then looks at him expectantly. He claps her back triumphantly and they move on to the next question.

Sometimes I watch, coiled tight, as he edges close to impatience. Especially when she needs to be told the same rule over and over again. That teeny-tiny part of her brain just occasionally seems to be like teflon for numbers.
But it’s funny how things add up.
He tells her the rule one. more. time. and suddenly it has sunk in. Planted.
Taken root.
She knows it. She beams. More back clapping.
“High five Dad!” she commands holding up both hands.
He waves his hands through the air and connects them with hers with a loud thwack.
“Ha!” she cackles as she slaps him playfully across the cheek. “You gave me ten! There’s your change!”
He grabs her. Holds her down in a clinch. The math book and grey lead and eraser tumble to the floor.
“Oh Dad,” she giggles rubbing the cheek that she slapped, “you fall for that dumb joke every, single time.”


He never did call.

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