Math at Work Monday: Kelly the Virtual Assistant



This world is spinning fast, and a lot of things are changing.  Today’s interview is with Kelly Case of Time on Hand Services.  She is a virtual assistant or VA – in fact, she’s my VA!  Without Kelly, this blog would be empty most of the time. She also lays out my newsletter and does lots of research for me. 

Can you explain what you do for a living?

I have my own business that provides administrative services to other companies.  These companies vary in size and may be located anywhere in the world.  Thanks to the internet, there is less and less need for your assistant to be in the physical office with you.  My clients enjoy the freedom of having a virtual assistant. They don’t have to provide office space, computer equipment, or benefits.  They decide how many hours they want me to work for them each month and then assign tasks to me at their convenience.  These tasks vary widely.  I do bookkeeping, email management, calendar management, blog management, proofreading, data entry, travel planning, transcription, customer service, email marketing, website design, and more.

When do you use basic math in your job?

I use math just about every day, for my own virtual assistance business as well as for the businesses of my clients.  I use math when doing invoicing, payroll, travel planning, and bookkeeping.  For instance, when reconciling credit card or checking accounts, I must use math to make sure the credits and debits match the bank statement.  When invoicing, I use math to make sure I’m charging their clients or mine the right amounts or percentages.  A customer of my client may agree to make three monthly payments to the client for a certain product.  I split the payment into thirds and charge at the appropriate time.

Do you use any technology (like calculators or computers) to help with this math? Why or why not?

Yes, I use the calculator function on my computer whenever I need to calculate long lists of numbers to prevent human error.  I usually do it twice to be sure I come up with the same answer each time.  I also use Microsoft Excel to keep track of credits and expenses for my clients’ check registers. Quickbooks is used often for the bookkeeping aspect as well.

How do you think math helps you do your job better?

I’m not sure that it helps me do it better, but it enables me to do my job.  I wouldn’t be able to invoice, do payroll, or keep books without the use of math.  Numbers are an integral part of our daily lives and work places.  And, where there are numbers, there is math.

How comfortable with math do you feel? Does this math feel different to you ?

I am extremely comfortable with math.  The type of math I use in my job is very elementary and basic for me.

What kind of math did you take in high school? Did you like it/feel like you were good at it?

I enjoy math very much.  In high school, I got As in math and was asked by friends to do their homework assignments for them.  In fact, I enjoy it so much I took math as one of my college electives because I knew it would be an easy A for me.

Did you have to learn new skills in order to do the math you use in your job? Or was it something that you could pickup using the skills you learned in school?

No, I didn’t need to learn any new math skills per se.  I just had to learn the different programs that I use to do the math, like Quickbooks or an online payroll service.

More and more writers, like me, are hiring virtual assistants. This allows us to focus on our writing, and for me, it means having a detail person on my team. Have a question for Kelly or interested in learning more about her services?  Check her out at Wondering how you can use a virtual assistant in your business? Ask in the comments section.

Photo Credit: Philippe Put via Compfight cc

Is Math Creative?

Is math creative?

As a math major in college, I was required to take a computer programming class. In retrospect, the reasoning made perfect sense: successful programming follows a natural logic, very much the same way math does. But at the time, I was resentful, and a little scared.

Sure enough, I was lost by week two. I enlisted in some tutoring from a dear friend in my section. And she demonstrated to me a completely different way of structuring the code. Her process made much more sense than the methods taught by our instructor, so I adopted it. Three days later, I sat in shock, as the prof announced that some of our assignments looked suspiciously similar.

Let me be clear: I had not copied my friend’s coding. I had identified with her way of thinking and modeled my code after her approach. But it was such out-of-the-box thinking, I understood why the prof thought we were cheating. And sadly, instead of talking to him about it, I simply reverted back to his methods. Yeah, I didn’t get much out of that class.

My friend demonstrated some amazing creativity in her approach to coding. She did this in all of her math classes as well — for which she was greatly rewarded. I learned from her that thinking creatively is critical for succeeding in math of any kind. And I mean any kind — from proving Fermat’s Last Theorem to finding out how many gallons of Symphony in Blue you need to paint your living room.

Too often, math is described in black-and-white terms. There’s a right and a wrong answer. There’s a step-by-step process to follow. If you think of math this way, it’s no wonder. Most of us were taught that math is about a right answer.

But those teachers were wrong. Sure, the right answer is important, but just like those inspirational posters say, it’s all about the journey. How you get to your answer is just as important as the right answer.

And that’s where creativity comes in. Because we all access this information in different ways. Some of us are visual. Some of us need time to think. Some of us like to talk things out. Those of us with true numeracy use creative methods for solving ordinary problems. Take 23 x 6, for example.

Most of the world would stack these numbers up, multiply 6 by 3 and then 6 by 2, add (remembering to align the numbers properly) and get 138. But there are many other ways. I like this one:

23 x 6 = (20 + 3) x 6

                       = (20 x 6) + (3 x 6)

         = 120 + 18

          = 138

With that method, I can do the problem in my head!

But you don’t need to solve the problem that way. Come up with your own process. Be bold! Set off on your own! Be creative!

So in answer to the question, Is math creative? YES! You’ve just got to access your own out of the box thinking.

Photo Credit: Yuri Yu. Samoilov via Compfight cc

Do you agree that math is creative? Why or why not? What examples of creativity (or lack thereof) can you share?

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