As easily as most people speak, I used to math.
I could math subconsciously. And quickly! So quickly. Faster than a calculator. My parents used to show me off to their friends.
And it felt right in a way that words can’t describe. Just the incredible rightness of getting the answer and knowing it’s right because it feels right and it completes the problem, like I imagine how creative people must feel when they find the last stroke of the brush a new painting needs.
It was as easy to me as walking is to you.
And then, it stopped.
Because, you see, my way of math was wrong. “You can’t do that in your head!” adults started to tell me. “We need to see your work.”
Never mind that my work couldn’t be worded or written in a way that made sense to them. “It’s right because it’s purple” made the adults scoff and tell me to quit being stupid.
The more understanding ones would say, “I know you know how to do it, and I might not understand how you do it, but I know you can do it. But even though I know you can do it, the principal won’t believe me that you can, so you have to learn how to write it down our way so you can show him how it’s done.”
My idea of getting him to come quiz me was scoffed at. He’s a busy man. And besides, nobody accepts “purple” as a right way to find the answer.
Eventually, I figured out how to emulate their way. I’d start at the answer, and walk sideways to the question. It was slow and time-consuming, but it worked. Eventually, I learned to do my math backward, by emulating the “normal” way of thinking about math. After a while, I did all my math backwards, because it was faster than feeling the rightness of forwards and then stumbling sideways to get the “work” on the paper.
I became so used to walking backwards, I lost the feel for walking forward.
And now I can’t math. Not like I used to. Not by feeling and rightness and color.
Now, I can only walk backwards.