Maths and Me (and You!)

algebra-1238600_640By some strange quirk of events, I am coaching someone right now via Facebook private messaging. It’s all to do with her tech and where she is in the world and how that affects her ability to VOIP (is that a verb yet?) into our group calls on Small Business Big Magic.

What we are working on is her desire to make money in her life and business and doing that for the first time outside of a day job. And also to provide for herself in later life by making some investments now, or soonish at any rate.

So I started her off with Rich Dad Poor Dad and she graduated to Nicola’s Money Gym book and now she’s booked onto a free property seminar with due caution from me about where that could lead. For now we are focused on education, education, education. The rest can come later. She’s starting to save now to invest later and understanding why that’s important.

She’s beginning this journey at about the same time of life as I did. And she confessed, as do so many, that she wasn’t any good with maths and that she’d made some terrifying blunders with money.┬áSo have I, Gentle Heart. So have I.

And that’s why we are learning. And, when it comes to maths and money, why we’ll always be learning. It doesn’t end, because nothing stays the same. But skilling ourselves up and becoming financially savvy will enable us to make better decisions when it comes to money matters in the future.

My client confessed to having failed her maths GCSE at school three times. Me too! Well, not quite. But I failed it twice, passed on the third time and went on to become an accountant. Go figure.

Once I woke up to the fact that all the advice I’d been given about “girls and sums don’t mix” was just plain wrong, sums felt like coming home. And the vast majority of my team in my own accounting biz were women too and guess what? Yup, they were all great at maths, and we all found it strangely satisfying. Unlike typical women’s work, which generally all needs doing over the minute you’ve finished, maths and sums stay done and are their own reward.

I used to tell my accounting clients when they confessed to being crap at maths that we could blame the teaching. I can’t even do that, because my maths teacher, Mrs Bennett, gave up her lunch breaks voluntarily to get me through. When I wrote to her eventually to let her know what I was doing for a living and to thank her for her patience and lunch break sacrifice, she said she always knew I had it, and that I was bright. Just that teenage girls have other things on their mind than maths! Oh, we were so cruel to her. I do hope I made up for that.

But I do blame teachers and teaching for allowing so many people I have met in this life to believe erroneously that they are crap at maths when they go on to demonstrate to me anything but. Same when I am playing Cashflow with them. They all sit down at the table apprehensive about their maths, then go on to demonstrate something I can’t do – mental arithmetic. And, better still, an ability to pick up maths concepts lickety-split. By lunchtime on the same day, they are using and understanding concepts and calculations they couldn’t do first thing. You see? Better than you know. And that IS the product of good teaching, that you have the grounding to be able to take on new learning. That’s something so few of us appreciate. That’s what education is for. And that’s what most of us do have if we are not too lazy to get the old grey matter moving again.

My friend Susie, who teaches teachers to teach maths better, says that as long as you have a route to an answer mathematically, it doesn’t matter how you get there. And what we forget is that we acquire this ability in life even if we think we didn’t leave school with much of it. You can work out what’s in your purse/wallet, what’s in your bank account, how much your groceries are going to cost you, how to do price comparisons. And now we are even allowed to use a calculator for everything which is just as well ‘cos I CAN’T do mental arithmetic in the main, having used a calculator daily since 1977. That’s my route to the answer.

My school maths involved arithmetic, algebra and geometry. And the joke on the internet is who uses those anyway. Well the truth is we all do, all the time, whether we realise it or not. OK, not so much formal geometry in my life right now, but algebra I use every day (honest!) when I am trying to work out a percentage on a piece of paper, still something I love to do very much. It’s what Susie would have called my route to the answer. I know how to do that sum, so I use it and enjoy it often. But just imagine they had made maths fun and relevant. We’d all be good at it and be confident of that too.

You are better at maths than you give yourself credit for. You can do mental arithmetic, and you can use a calculator, and you can switch your utilities to save money, you can handle a domestic budget and you can even get over your fear of spreadsheets which only do four very simple things anyway, they add up, subtract, multiply and divide. And you don’t even need to use a spreadsheet if something else (pencil and paper? back of an envelope?) would serve your purpose better. Give yourself permission to use your natural gifts. Find your route to the answer.

Stop beating yourself up about how bad you are at maths or the mistakes you think you’ve made with money. You are not bad at maths, you may be under-confident because of how badly it was taught or teenage exam failures, but you’ve acquired a competency in adult life that makes you better than you know. And that’s something you can build on when it comes to learning about money.

Not being afraid of the sums is just the start. And what you tell yourself is pretty much half the battle.


If the time has come for you to conquer your fears of maths and get to grips with money, let me know. I’d love to teach you what I know. Contact me.

Your Biz Your Way

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