24x + 3x - 3y = 72, find y in terms of x. No, you don't have to really - unless you want to, unless you love algebra. It seems people either love it or hate it.
I know a woman from a teaching course I was on once who had something close to a panic attack when confronted with a maths problem. She was a great public speaker and performer, though.
I have no issues with maths, but the thought of public speaking churns me completely inside. I'll do my utmost to avoid it. Which isn't the best strategy for overcoming a fear.
You might not ever become a wonderful mathematician or a fluent public speaker, but you can get better at those things if you just do it.
That's something to keep in mind when we consider our kids who are struggling with maths.
According to a recent international survey of kids' maths abilities entering their first year of high school, New Zealand ranks below all other English speaking countries.
There'll be much worrying about this in different circles. Schools obviously, and the business world, who want maths-competent employees.
And within the government, who have responsibility for the next generation of productive workers.
My concern is not about churning out workers with maths abilities, though of course it's necessary for many half-decent jobs.
Instead, I come at this more from the benefits a maths understanding gives you.
Maths, best learned young, but really at any time, is good for the brain. It helps us develop abstract thought and the ability to logically think through many of life's problems, not just mathematical ones.
So for what it's worth, I'll pre-empt the job of the recently appointed Royal Society of NZ panel, and offer my recommendations for how we reverse declining maths standards.
1. Parents, grandparents, whānau, it's up to you first. Just like reading to young children is essential, doing basic maths with them as early as possible is vital. Like simple counting, number recognition, that kind of thing. Start early and keep going with them as long as your maths knowledge is more than theirs.
2. If parents and caregivers have no maths confidence, it can be passed on to kids. The Government needs to work with schools to provide teachers with resources to teach maths - in a fun way - to parents and children. Teaching maths to whānau at schools, but also on marae or in community halls, is the way to go.
3. My next suggestion will be controversial. I think there needs to be specialist maths teachers in primary schools. The model of primary school teachers as generalists should be maintained, but there's scope for maths specialists to mentor other teachers, coordinate best teaching practices across a school, and relieve teachers in the classroom to specifically teach maths. Teachers who are passionate about a subject, confident in their own knowledge are more likely to pass on their enthusiasm.
4. For Pete's and Betty's sake reduce class sizes. Teaching 20 kids in a classroom is far easier than teaching 30. Smaller classes sizes will also lessen the burden of assessment and reporting, freeing up more time for teaching. The education outcomes will be stronger. Anyone who argues that class sizes don't matter has either never been near a classroom or has a political agenda (usually anti-teacher unions and against higher taxes to properly fund our schools).
Back to the maths equation above, the answer is y = 9x - 24.
If you don't know how to work it out, maybe find someone who does. If you do know, perhaps find someone who doesn't in your family and explain it.
It's possible to overcome the maths barrier. The woman I mentioned at the start of this column went on to teach at primary school.
She overcame her own fears of maths to teach it to her kids while remaining great fun in other areas of teaching I'm sure.