How to write about Maths and not be boring… and Why?!

30 Nov

Okay, so this week I’m getting back into the whole ‘this is a writer’s blog so write about writing’ theme. Though the different Doctor Who things were pretty brilliant weren’t they? From what I’ve heard I’m glad they didn’t show the after part here in Australia. And, seriously, if you’ve not seen it yet, go watch Peter Davidson’s Five(ish) Doctors 🙂

Right, back to wearing my ‘I’m an author’ badge with moulting glitter and all and talk about why exactly I felt I could write about Maths and make it interesting. My first question is, did I really write about Maths? Or just include it in my story as the bubble gum and sticky tape holding the real story together? And secondly, I’ve discovered Maths isn’t actually boring! Yes, I was as shocked and surprised myself when I came to this realisation. So calm down, grab a choccy and a cuppa and read on.

Now, for those who don’t know me, I simply loathed and despised Maths at school. From being rather ill during my primary school years and therefore missing out on learning about fractions properly to, thanks to same illness, missing great chunks of Maths in high school, I sucked at it. Add to that some well-meaning teacher felt I could get into more universities if I did the highest Maths available (which was Maths 1 and Maths 2 back in my day)… all it did was really prove I sucked at it. In exams my answers tended to include a lot of question marks and smiley faces.

My brother is smart, wickedly cleverly smart and ate Maths for breakfast. (This is a compliment by the way). And he is only two years older than me and so I tended to end up in all the same classes he’d just been in and therefore it was assumed I would thrive on the Maths just as much as he did. I even had teachers say to my face “Your brother was excellent at this so you’ll be too”. Er, pass! Did you not notice the extra book I tend to pull out during Maths? The non-school issued one full of pictures and stories I was working on? And, seriously, it may be due to the great gaps of Maths I missed while being sick, but the moment letters were brought into equations I just had no clue. When asked to determine what ‘x’ was I often just looked at the teacher and replied “Well, if you don’t know what it is, why on earth did you add it?” *sigh* No, Maths and I never go along. In high school, add to that Physics and all the science teachers knowing my sciencey father and their frustration at my complete lack of enthusiasms in anything that I couldn’t blow up or set fire to… *double sigh* I was not destined to be a Mathematician or Physicist.

However, being a writer, I did spend many hours just staring at the world, fascinated in how nature was so clever in all she did and how man could often be rather clever too in building things and making them last so long. In more recent years I’ve really started getting into architecture. No I can’t spout the names of great architects or even waffle on about certain styles and forms. Like any sort of art, if I like it I like it. I’m attracted to certain forms and buildings and think “What a clever person to turn their thoughts into something so physical and amazing.”

With this new love of man-made form and structure I started looking at the amazing wonders made by nature that had similar near mathematical precision in their creation. Seriously look at a gerbera and its petals some time, or a snail shell… even a spider’s web or ant’s nest. Look at the structure and beauty and just think nature made that. How did it get it so precise and structurally sound? It’s not as if snails and spiders learn Maths in school before they trot off to make their shells and webs… despite what children’s shows say.  How exactly? Amazingly… it’s all down to Maths and Physics. Which is what brought strength to my story idea of Maths That Stays and Hidden Logic. The world, all around us, exists as it is subconsciously following equations that, with the correct formula, give the desired result. Which is pretty much what the Maths in my story is all about. Rogan has basically stumbled across one of the equations that helps hold the universe together and has learnt to tweak it in such a way he can use it to his advantage. I mean, yes it is obviously fiction here people… but the concept is still mind blowing. Well, it is to me anyhow and if it’s not to anyone else then I’m not only easily amused, but my mind is small enough to be blown by the merest thing. 😉

I’m going to embark on the second book in Bonnie’s life shortly. In it I will try and delve deeper down into this new found fascination in Maths and Physics and try and make it as interesting (and funny) as possible for the readers. If any of my Physics teachers are reading this, I’m sure they’re sobbing hysterically that I’ve finally realised how awesome physics really is, rather than just sitting there either heckling them or pretending to be taking notes but actually working on my latest story. Well done Physics teachers, it took nearly twenty years to sink it, but you did it!

Now I’m not setting out to encourage people to throw themselves into a love of Maths and Physics in the vain hope one day Maths That Stays will be a real thing. Hell no! But I will state I expect ten percent of the royalties please! 😀 No, if I can show people that you can use Maths and Physics in a fictional book of light hearted humour and enjoyment and therefore make it seem not so dull in the class room, that is enough for me. Seriously, the world is an amazing place and a lot of it really is down to stuff Newton was waffling on about in his day. What a clever man!

I really do feel I’m getting into that repetitive waffle stage and so I know I may not be making the point that I’m really trying to make. Just know that cause and effect is what our lives are made up of, and that’s the second law of thermodynamics… isn’t it? I always remember the third one more, which was about entropy and really only because Adric and the fourth Doctor discussed it in Logopolis. 😀 What, my love of Maths can’t include Doctor Who? You’ll be banning me from Star Trek next and then there will be trouble!

Okay, so the point I’m trying to make is yes Maths and Physics will appear deeply dull and horrific ordeals to the most of us as we go through the school system. But they really are pretty amazing despite all the numbers, letters, squiggles and stuff. And, to be honest, if I had my time over again, I would really love to try and wrap my mind around real physics just that little bit more. Sadly, I do wonder how hard it’d be to teach this old dog any new tricks. I honestly feel my eyes would glaze over and the latest story idea would soon be drowning out the drone of my lecturer. It really is far more fun writing about fictional Maths than learning the real stuff. But study hard all the same… as one day it may just click and you’ll look at the world and think “Oh my…”

Do I feel people are put off that Bonnie’s Story is about Maths? In a way I do, which is why its original title of Maths Story bit the dust as soon as someone decided to take the risk and publish it. That titled sucked. 🙂 Why did I keep Maths in the subtitle? As I said earlier, the Maths of this fictional work really is just the bubble gum and sticky tape holding the real story together. Why encourage Maths in the first place? Well, this one really comes down to those annoying pictures that pop up in social media a lot. You know, the ones that say things like “I’m another day older and I’ve still not used algebra”? I hate to break it to you, but every single day of our lives algebra is happening all about us. Just because you’re not putting pen to paper and doodling out those numbers, squiggles and letters, doesn’t mean algebra isn’t happening to you. Scary isn’t it? And yet, pretty darn awesome too. 😉

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

1 Comment

Posted by on November 30, 2013 in Writing


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One response to “How to write about Maths and not be boring… and Why?!

  1. dromar-dennes

    December 20, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    But a smiling visitant here to share the love (:, btw great style and design. “Reading well is one of the great pleasures that solitude can afford you.” by Harold Bloom.


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