I have a math degree. I am horrible with numbers.
These two statements, despite your first thought, are not mutually exclusive. When in the math faculty, I rarely had to use numbers. If I did, they were not bigger than 10. Or they were irrational numbers or numbers as words: pi, e, the sqauare root of 2, cos of 0, epsilon.
When people find out I have a math degree, they automatically assume I am good with numbers and some even bark out a question like, “What’s the square root of 5692?” – Got me. But if you have a calculator, I’m wicked awesome with a number pad due to my time as a safeway cashier.
Like any good grade school student, I memorized my multiplication tables up to 12*12, and because I like numbers, I know 13*13, 14*14, 15*15 – just cuz I think it’s fun. I factor in my head when I can’t sleep at night, bringing all numbers down to their prime factors. It’s very relaxing and distracting. You try getting upset about deadlines at work when you are trying to break down 120 in your head (120=2*3*4*5 – which actually fascinates me because other than it’s prime factorization, I see nothing else extraordinary about 120 but there you have it). But splitting the cheque, knowing how much to tip, or figuring out 3% of my paycheck for my health benefits, and I’m reaching for my trusty keyboard calculator.
I’m more interested in how math forumlas work, why they work, why they are true all the time, and how it is that anyone ever possibly figured out imaginary numbers (no joke! they exist!) than trying to figure out how much is left in my bank account.
I leave you with this thought:
It is not the job of mathematicians… to do correct arithmetical operations. It is the job of bank accountants. ~Samuil Shchatunovski