Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Intuitive Math

I observe in myself two types of math skills. I'll call them intuitive and cognitive. I can see either operate when doing simple sums or products. Other than that, cognitive seems to only be available to me.

My experience of intuitive math, particularly addition, is that I glance at the number and the answer appears to me as knowledge instantly. Trying to capture this in words is something like;

3,5 sums to 8.

It is an instant conclusion. There is no "thought" or consideration.

My experience of cognitive math is some reference to other information, some process pursued, lots of consideration. It feels more like;

3 plus 5 is 8. or 3 plus 5 equals 8.

Notice the objects appear (3 and 5), there is a process between them (plus) there is consideration of an outcome via a rule ("is" or "equals"). There is much consideration in this.

Why is this important to me? Because, as I said, there are circumstances where I seem to have a choice over which method I use to get my answer. I have literally been faced with addition I needed to do, found the intuitive method at play but getting nervous at the lack of "checking" and so switching to cognitive. And sometimes visa versa.

This speaks to me about the role of intuition in general. There can be, I believe, a way of responding to events that is direct and intuitive, instant and spontaneous and without reference to rules or relationships guidelines. Often I think our intuition always speaks first to us and then we try and "back it up" with a cognitive solution. A solution that has been thought out in reference to rules and guidelines. That is all well and good until there is a disjoint between our intuition and "the rules" method.

I experience a choice of intuitive or cognitive for sums. The rest of the time, I think I spend in consideration, idealism. I believe zazen will help me learn to choose living in intuition more frequently.


Jordan said...

Interesting. I tend to rely on intuition for myself and cognition when trying to explain things. But I should note that I am horrible at anything but basic math!

Lauren said...

Intuition with my daughter often comes out as "just because" which never seems to satisfy.

Jordan said...

Would just because satisfy you?

Lauren said...

Good Lord, no. I'm totally sympathetic to her dissatisfaction, and frustrated that I can't easily put the reasoning of "just because" (for whatever the situation) into a train of logic she gets.

Jordan said...

Well, I have about six and a half more years before I have to deal with a teenage daughter, in eight years I'll have two! I hope all this love and kindness effort pays off!

Lauren said...


I think it does in the long run. One of the things I've had to learn that was a really hard lesson, was to sit with negative outlook. At some point "it's going to be okay" doesn't cut it. The child has a grasp of life as it is, and connects to suffering for the first time, in the sense of the suffering we adults know does not leave. At times my daughter has said "life is terrible" and the only helpful thing I could do was sit with her in silence acknowledging the truth she was feeling in the moment. But if that is done, and she sees nothing is truely annihilated, though it feels like it must be, she has the lesson needed to take the next step on her own.
I'm quite tired. I hope that made sense.

Jordan said...

I think I understand what your saying, have a restful weekend!