Thursday, 11 December 2008

wood and trees

In a parents' consultation a couple of terms before I sat my A Levels, the wonderful Welsh maths teacher Mrs W told me (and of course my parents) that the only danger of me getting lower than a grade A in my maths A Levels derived from the fact that I frequently got simple numbers wrong. This may sound weird (surely if I couldn't count, I shouldn't have been in danger of getting an A, full stop) but I was actually operating on a topsy-turvy scenario wherein I loved all the complexities of algebraic formulae, statistical analysis, etc and subconsciously felt that adding numbers like 2 and 5 as part of the solution was sort of irrelevant: if the beauty of the working out was there, did it really matter if an odd detail was wrong?

I made sure I checked and double-checked the little numbers in the exams, and achieved my As. But I think that this habit of ignoring the small things still exists within me. For example, I frequently forget the names of critics (famously attributing the name Victor to V.A. Kolve) or calling Northampton Nottingham for the whole of my MPhil dissertation. Recently, when citing some Old French, I wrote 'bein' instead of 'bien', and continuously used the name of an author as it appeared in my head rather than how it appears in Real Life.

While it's funny in anecdote, I'm going to have to try to become more attentive to this kind of thing. There's no point producing beautiful maths formulae or interesting reading of texts if it's based on unforced errors. But how to change the habits of a lifetime? 

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