Blog article by Nic Beveridge

The abstract science of number, quantity, and space as concepts or applied to other disciplines. Known to most more casually as mathematics.

Some go on to learn about algebraic equations, or the complexities associated with Pythagoras’ theory. But for most, we stick to the basics.

We learn from a primary age that one plus one equals two, and two plus two equals window. It’s simple stuff really – in hindsight anyway.

I remember sitting in maths class in senior school, looking at the board and wondering when this subject all of a sudden decided to become more challenging.

Maths used to just be an equation, whereby the only thing you had to work out was the answer. You were shown the sum in full and you simply had to solve it.

In what felt like a sudden – the world changed. We were now only being given half (sometimes less) of an equation, plus the answer. And we had to work out what was missing in order for the sum to equal what it did.

The emphasis was no longer on calculating the answer, but the sum.

I didn’t enjoy the time I spent in the spinal unit twelve years ago. I would only acknowledge a handful of people and mostly just kept to myself. I was just trying to learn what they thought I needed to know so I could leave. And I did.

But I learnt something else as well. I couldn’t float in water anymore.

When lying flat in hydrotherapy – either on my stomach or back – three quarters of my body would descend like an anchor. I needed a physio to cradle me up like an adolescent in a learn-to-swim class.

After being discharged I was back home with my parents. I would regularly go outside and transfer out of my day chair onto the pavement around their pool. Just looking at the water. Like it was some sort of magic eye puzzle, about to display a hidden truth to me.

I already knew I wanted to float. I had my answer. But I had no idea what I needed to do in order for that to happen. I needed to calculate the sum.

The mind is unique in the way it works. Any thing can trigger it to concoct a notion for you to try, and you might never get to know what made that connection.

I don’t know what it was that prompted my mind while staring at the pool that day, but by the next I was taking one of my pressure stockings and old pool buoy outside with me.

As I sat on the pavement I tied the pool buoy in between my upper legs with the pressure stocking, and proceeded to roll into the pool.

I wasn’t sinking. So I started swimming. I could only take a couple of strokes before I had to turn around. But I didn’t care.

I went outside and did this every day for at least 20 minutes.

One day the pool buoy popped out from between the pressure stocking holding it in place. And I didn’t sink. So I kept swimming.

I’d calculated the sum.

I thought by fluke at the time, but it’s only when looking back I can see that I set myself up to solve that sum a year beforehand.

When I was 16 I started playing Waterpolo because a friend heartened me to try it. We used to use pool buoys at training for part of the swim sets.

It’s the only time in my life prior to having a disability I’d been exposed to pool buoys.

Had I never started playing, I’d never have discovered the device, and perhaps my mind would never have been activated to try swimming and learning to float by using it.

What seemed like the most insignificant aspect of Waterpolo training when I was 16, had suddenly helped me calculate a sum when I was 17 and trying to teach myself old skills all over again.

I used to hate mathematics. Part of me still looks upon it unfavourably.

Other than wanting to learn the basics so I could throw some numbers around in a practical sense – I didn’t see the point. But I kept paying attention in class at school anyway.

Because who is to know when an experience already lived becomes a foothold to another?

When you have an answer, and need to calculate the sum.

I look back fondly on conversations we’d have at school when walking out of maths class, most comments born out of frustration.

“When are we ever going to need this?”