Sunday November 29th 2015

Were You Math Averse?

The memories are all too fresh, even though it happened more years ago than we care to admit. Third grade: sitting at the kitchen table, sobbing while Dad drilled us in “number facts.” High school: sobbing while Dad attempted to explain the mysteries of the slide rule. Pitiful. Painful. Fast forward a few decades: a smiling quilter who can draft a block pattern and figure out how much fabric to buy. But it’s not math, we say. This is quilting!

Math is one of the things a reader asked Paula Nadelstern about in “If You Could Ask One Question” in TQL’s August issue. Sharon Kunstler of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, asked Paula if she had been a math or geometry whiz in high school. (Paula, by the way, is one of the nicest quilting superstars you’ll ever meet, with a great New Yorky sense of humor). Paula’s quilts, you know, are these fabulous kaleidoscopic creations that boggle the mind.  But maybe we weren’t really surprised when Paula said she was definitely not great at math, although geometry was least awful. “My quilts are more about spatial relations than math,” Paula answered, and she went on to tell us the simple math fact that enables her to stitch a kaleidoscopic pie with wedges that fit together without making a mountain in the middle.

We really enjoyed hearing what Paula had to say. She’s down-to-earth, funny, and an inspiring out-of-the-box thinker. But we can’t help remembering what Dad said as we sobbed. “If you wanted this badly enough, you would be able to do it.” Could he have been right?

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