This is a story all about how my Ne screwed up my GPA and didn’t let me get into my favorite college and I punished myself by taking up competitive fencing. But this is also the story of my ESFJ friend who was having trouble doing math. All about how I tried to give her some tips, having myself reached the sage-like rank of high school calculus straggler failure.
Memorizing formulas has never been my thing. I have enough trouble recalling what if anything I’ve eaten recently. One time I had tooth surgery and got put on hardcore antibiotics, and I had to like mark my hand with a sharpie every time I took one so I wouldn’t OD and/or die of tooth gangrene. If you’re saddled with strong Ne you’d better have a photographic memory or you will literally die is what I’m saying. You will die in a stupid way.
This is why ENFPs seem misinformed half the time, and why they get indignant when accused of ignorance. In actuality the average ENFP reads enough garbage to have accrued sheerly encyclopedic datas on every subject from Italian cinema to nuclear fission; it’s just that before long ENFP memory poops out 90% of these datas and immediately demands more, newer, sweeter datas. Thereby negating the ostensible purpose of research; except the actual purpose of research for ENFPs is to satiate Ne for just long enough to sleep and have friends.
Another thing that Ne gets a huge kick out of is analogies. It fucking loves analogies so much that being Ne-dom got me a full ride to private school. The aptitude test I got given was mostly analogies, and all I was doing then at 11 years old was designing, constructing, and forcing any nearby human to play board games based vaguely on interpretive fanfiction I wrote about Sailormoon.
Which is why I am so reliant on analogies when it comes to internalizing abstract concepts. I need to see the big picture, then scale down. This way I know how the concept’s components are positioned in relation to each other. For example I’d never navigate a city with a closely zoomed-in Google Map. I’d rather zoom out, take time to internalize the city’s general layout and major roads. I’d rather put the map away. It’s far too Te and it bars me from experiencing joy. If I ever got legitimately lost, the map would be where I could reach it. And if I only got a little lost I would have an excuse to explore and gather new data which is like crack to Ne.
Anyway so math doesn’t really work like that. You need to love and respect the math formulas. I mean math does work like that once you get to a certain ridiculous level of math belt, but for years before this you are going to respect and use math formulas to do math.
And somehow I could never quite see math formulas as these pure things for doing pure math. I’m too Ne/Fidiotic to enjoy pure math. I need analogies. I need to picture these analogies in my head in order to do math. Like a kindergardener.
I still deal with math via Ne > Ti > Te.
Let’s use a simple division example.
The image is a picture of a cake if you can’t tell. My drawings are unfortunately subtle objects, full of mystery and concealed passion. Anyway look at that drawing have you looked yet.
In my head 2000 instantly becomes a unit of volume. In this instance: a cake. I mentally divide the cake into six parts, then cut one slice for the answer. Gangsta. I have yet to do the Te part, the calculation, but my Ti has already converted cake slices back into numbers.
All of this happens in an instant. Based on the size of the slices, the answer is somewhere between 300 and 400. And honestly as far as I’m concerned, at this point this problem is solved. The rest is just boring plodding Te refinement. Uncool time vampire refinement. Who needs to connect the dots when just looking at the dots with your eyes makes it super obvious that the dots are a picture of a boat.
Math needs to. It wants you to know exactly what kind of boat it is and how many boat chimneys and other boat type parts it has on it. I mean if you write on your math paper in school, “like 350?” you will straggle and fail. Because being a person means taking responsibility for yourself and like 350 is not taking responsibility for yourself. Like 350 is just hubris.
My ESFJ friend E recently took a math class. E is also not so naturally good at math. This is something we share. She is not a Te-type problem-solver, but I often notice her reaching for Te instead of engaging her inf-Ti, which comes to her only unconsciously — but also handily, like a secret power. It’s Te that E was using on her math homework when a problem stumped her and she send me a IM, all,
—My homework is stumping me.
—Want me to take a look at it?
—Are you good at math?
No but the problem turned out to be an ok one about compound interest. E was using the formula given to her in class, Interest = Principal investment ● % annual interest Rate ● Time in years, or I = PRT. I could handle this.
The values she had to work with for this particular problem were:
$10,000 principal investment
But the I = PRT wouldn’t work for months. It needed years. I suggested using 8/12, or 2/3, to represent 8 months as years, which E understood immediately:
10,000 ● 10% ● 2/3
1,000 ● 2/3
2,000 / 3
Except when time came to divide E was all, which number goes into which? All still working from Te and Si. The formula and the practice problems she’d done in class.
In her spare time E makes clothes, especially costumes. She can look at a picture of any costume, even if it’s Game of Thrones cosplay, and she can put together the costume with Ne and Ti, by figuring out on her own how to tackle each aspect of the construction.
This is how to look at math, I told her. When you are going only off the formulas without understanding the concept behind the formulas, it’s like trying to make a costume without having ever seen a picture of this costume, going solely off instructions from somebody who has. It’s inefficient and probably way stressful.
And she was like, Sure that’s nice ok.
Because obviously I talk a lot at everyone around me all day, so people learn to raise some walls now and then so as to continue being cool buddies with me.
I was all, Do you understand “I = PRT” intuitively? If you were given these values:
$10,000 principal investment
and had to calculate interest without a formula, would you sort of know what to do, purely via Ne/Ti? What to multiply against what, etc.
And she was like, Not really.
Which is of course the biggest problem with math and bad teachers of math — or at least with teachers who are bad teachers to the F types accustomed to relying on Te, but lacking the unconscious pragmastery of Te-types. There’s no sense of the why, only of the how.
And of course I will always come from the Ne/Ti perspective. Te is still difficult for me. And I will try to use methods that rely on these functions, mainly throwing everything out the window and winging it until something works. I knew that my strategy of essentially imagining extra fingers to count on might not help E as much as it helps me. I doubt she relies on analogies and mental pictures nearly as much as I do. She only uses Ne in times of stress or great inebriation, the way I use Te; for her Ne is lame and tedious. But at the time Te wasn’t working right and might have continued sucking at handling math for E unless she put some Ne/Ti into the mix. Worth a try, anyway.
I asked her to ignore the formula for now. Just picture the $10,000 as a pile of money, I said. Then picture another 10% of the pile, next to the pile. Imagine it to scale, as if it were really happening in front of you. Are you picturing?
So the 10% is the interest the money accrues in one year. Now let’s look closely at this smaller stack. That is 12 months’ worth of interest. $1000. Six months’ worth would be half that. $500. Mentally halve the smaller stack.
Cool job now that half represents 6 months, 1/2 year, $500. But we need 8 months, 2/3 of a year. Look at that half-year stack of money and see about how much goes into each month.
It doesn’t have to be a stack of money. It could be a cake.
That’s about the size of your monthly interest. Add another two of those on top of the 6-month pile. That’s 8 months of interest. 500 + 2/6 of 500.
500 + 1/3 of 500.
Are you getting the ballpark answer yet?
E was like, it’s 500 plus… like 150?
:Dv :Dv :Dv
And that’s how I shared an N strategy with my Fe-dom Sensing type buddy. This is why more opposite types ought to be friends; E can teach me how to go on dates with boys and I can teach her to count on imaginary cake slices or whatever. And to be terrible at math. Because as I myself quickly found out when trigonometry gave way to infinite number sets and similar bullshit, no amount of imagination can come up with enough cakes.