For a course so heavily reliant on words, paragraphs, essays and letters, you’d think that I am crazy to bring numbers into everything. Really, what am I thinking? This blog has always relied on words, I can’t just go around making posts on numbers! Taking two separate things and trying to jam them together is bound to make a mess of anyone reading this! (Quick nod to Ziyana and her ‘love’ of math- turn back before the numbers consume you!)
But unfortunately, everything we do in school comes back to numbers. It’s easy to see in classes like Science or Social, with measurements, statistics, proportions and data. You’d have to be practically blind to miss the numbers in Math, but for English, the topic of numbers are very odd. You write a paper, full of words that have been manipulated so carefully so that you can convey a point as clearly as possible. And when it’s all said and done, even when your peers and teachers comment on it, you get a number. A series of up to three digits that define how good you are at something. From even before grade 1 are you given a set of numbers called a report card (If you are graded in letters even: Look carefully, you’ll find the number equivalents somewhere). You bring them home, not even sure what most of it means. But your parents tell you that you’re doing great, so you assume that those numbers are good. It’s not even until middle school that you realize that those numbers will quickly define who you will become in the future, that you were allowed to do this with your life because you got a higher number than someone else. How do you grade English with numbers? This is a question that I will always have for my English teachers.
Grading work in Science related subjects is really not so difficult. The answer is either right or wrong, and can be marked accordingly. In Social, even, you can have a date or historical recollection right or wrong. But in English, how do you attach a number to a work of opinion? “You deserve this number because you convinced me this much that you were right”. I know that there are rubrics and guidelines that make this job ever easier, but as Mrs. Hunnisett is always quick to tell us: we are more than just numbers.
But are we really? Sure, on a sentimental level, we’re slightly more important sacks of carbon than the sack of carbon beside us – but to anything that will ever determine our practical life, aren’t we nothing but a number? Any university nowadays, all they really care about is your grades and how much you can pay them, we’re literally just and array to most people. And I don’t say this to depress anyone, but there are some truths out there that must be recognized.
What is up with humanity’s reliance on numbers anyway? We don’t care that people died in an earthquake, we need to know just how many passed away, what the exact damage cost was, what magnitude of an earthquake it was. All numbers that are nice to know and all, but taking away from the real point that human lives were lost and families were torn apart, be it one person or a thousand. Why are we so engrossed with knowing the exact number of how your friend did on a test? If you ask them, and they say “Bad”, that’s far too subjective for you. (Because to living legends like Rehman and family, they probably mean around 95%) You just have to know the very number, and you keep pestering them for it until they give it to you. Now that you know it, why does this make anything more clear for you? Now you can Quantifiably analyze how much both of you did on something? It just seems… pointless, numbers on their own.
And then I realized something. Numbers and words coexist so closely to one another that it is impossible to have one without the other Just imagine trying to talk to someone using only numbers.
“23!?!?” 14 12 18 29!!”
It just… It dosen’t work. Now imagine it the other way around.
“What did you get on the test?”
“Yeah, but how good is pretty good?”
“Not, like, quite full marks, but only a minor bracket between that and a few marks lower.”
“So… How big are we talking when you say ‘minor’ bracket?”
No matter how you spin it, humans rely on both words and numbers equally. I have come to the concision that numbers on their own are useless, random figures without context or use. Words on their own are inaccurate and make persuading anybody almost pointless. The two together though, are a true way to blend facts and opinions together, a true way of telling someone both how you think and how you feel about the world around you. They form this interesting thing called language. Math and English are taught as the opposites of the same spectrum, but they convey so many similarities. In words, we use generalizations to account for numbers that we don’t know. (There were a lot of people at that party…), and in numbers we use symbols to convey the words that we cannot use. I mean, you could write 4 is greater than 2 if you wanted, but using a 4>2 makes life so much easier. In math, we use three dots to substitute words like ‘because’ and ‘therefore’, and the connections between the two really are inescapable.
So if any of you signed up for LA AP to get away from numbers, I’m afraid I have some bad news for you…