This is a bit of a rant. I hope I don't step on any toes; I don't intend to be critical, just puzzled and a bit sad.
What is the problem with quilters and math? I've wondered that for a while, but it was brought to my attention again last night at guild when several people became practically hysterical at the thought of averaging three measurements of a quilt center to get a good border length. These are intelligent women; what's the matter?
I'm not a math whiz. I remember my high school math teacher, firmly planted on sturdy legs and arms folded on top of her massive bosom, announcing loudly to the class, "Kathy, they say you're such a good student. Why don't you know what 7 plus 9 is?" Actually, I do know what 7 + 9 is, but I have to think about it. I also can't remember numbers; I have to write down a phone number to dial it, and I have to write down the simplest measurement or I forget it. But there are calculators for people like me, and for everyone else too.
Actually quilters only have to remember a few simple formulas, like the square that is cut in half diagonally for half square triangles should be the size of the finished square plus 7/8 inch. (That sounds much more complicated than it is.) And if you can't remember, the formula, there are all sorts of charts available, and there is always Google. Otherwise, quilting is mostly just addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication, all easy to do on the most basic calculator.
Quilters Newsletter Magazine periodically has articles that try to help. There was one in the last issue about planning any block which was excellent. (I looked for it on the website and couldn't find it, but it's the January 2009 issue, I think.)
I think this problem of quilters is an example of the way many women have been treated by the educational system: girls can't get math, so they don't. "Math Phobia" was the popular phrase a while back. The sad thing about not understanding quilt math is that quilters are so limited in what they can do. They have to use patterns, they have to buy special rulers that put the right measurements in, they have to use pre-cut fabrics, they think they need a special calculator to figure yardage, and on and on. So, the next time you can't figure it out, don't panic stop, think, get the calculator, use Google, look in a quilting book. I bet you can do it. If someone who can't remember her Social Security number or doesn't know that 7 + 9 = 16 can figure it out, anyone can.