My mom always valued math and she helped me with my homework when I was young. She was a bookkeeper and she worked as a comptometrist before calculators and computers became popular. She understood how to work this special machine that performed mathematical operations for accounting and I guess since not everyone knew how to use this, she got paid pretty well at the time for a woman. She helped me with all of my subjects, but she thought that math was the most important subject for me to learn, so when I was little, she got me all of these connect the dot puzzles. I enjoyed finding the numbers and when I joined them together with a pencil, they turned into pictures that I would show to my mom and she would give me a treat for solving them.
It wasn’t very difficult but it helped me to see patterns and that is why I was able to do calculus later on in college. I had to take several courses in calculus in order to get my Electrical Engineering degree and I absolutely hated this subject, because I didn’t understand it. All the other math courses that I took before calculus made sense to me. Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry all had rules that I understood and even though Calculus had rules, I never saw the purpose in any of these problems, but I was able to solve them because I saw the patterns. I would look at the problem and see if there was something similar to it and then I would notice how they differed. I made a puzzle out of every problem, adjusting this problem to fit and even though I fumbled my way through this subject, I did pass.
Working on the connect the dot puzzles enabled me to visualize the outcome of the pictures that I was drawing. I feel that it went beyond that, by helping me to develop a spatial relationship between the dots that I was connecting and the objects that the pictures turned into. If I were to draw a line from number 3 to number 5 instead of number 4, the picture would not be correct and the hidden shape would never be revealed to me. I had to take responsibility for connecting the dots in the right order and this taught me that there were consequences for doing things the right way and for doing them the wrong way. These puzzles became a stepping stone for me to learn how life works.
Written for Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday where the prompt is to use the word puzzle anyway you like.