Me: How's your high school maths?
Him: Pretty shonky, like most art students.
Me: Tell me about it. If my maths teacher could see me now, he'd drop off his perch in shock.* Who was to know book-making and letterpress uses so much maths?
Him: Yeah (laughs nervously).
Me: Seriously, to make this work, we need to plan it. You can't just whip up a few boxes and expect them to interact. The simplest outcome sometimes takes a lot of thinking and calculation and practicing. Don't expect this set of boxes to be the final outcome; this is where the problems will rear their ugly heads, and we will tame them as they arise.
Me: We need a formula!
Me: Watch this: you've made the first (smallest) box, right? Now:
(base of box) + (space between boxes x 2) + (thickness of boxboard x 2) = base of next box
The only variable is the space between the boxes, because your collage might be thicker on some of them. You have to measure each one as you make it.
Him: Oh my god, that's...
Me: That's algebra!
Him: You mean...
Me: Yes! Amazingly, that shit is actually applicable! Don't you wish they'd told us that at school?
We stand and gaze at the formula lovingly for a minute.
*My maths teacher told me I'd be useless in the real world. "Duckie",** he'd say, slapping his forehead in despair, "what is your problem?" Numerically dyslexic, I'd tell him. It was just all too abstract. I got 27% for my HSC maths, and a lot of that was writing the formulas down randomly through the paper and not applying them. I must have hit a few spots. Still, I'm starting to feel better about numbers the older I get, but only about the ones that behave themselves.
**Names have been changed to