X + 2 = 5
X, even more than Y, brings back algebra angst—to the 10th power. In my sophomore year of high school my math teacher actually patted my hand and told me, “You’ll pass, don’t worry.” I was sobbing over pre-pre-algebra. The tears were not about failing the class. I was crying about not understanding and about him teaching me as if I already understood the secret fundamentals of math.
Fast forward to college. Still not a member of the secret society of math, I pulled up my big girl panties and gave it the old college try. This teacher was not willing to give me a passing grade and he had no idea how to speak the math-for-dummies language either. Math, especially algebra, brought out a lot of hidden anger in me. I was finally able to express that anger with some damn fine cussing. Not at the teacher. At least not to his face.
Later, I passed a basic algebra class (with a little help from my friends), but was still not given the secret codes to get me to the next level. Many years later, I had to go back and take, either college level algebra or probabilities and statistics. I took the p & s class. Somehow I achieved a “C,” that felt miraculously like an “A+.” It was the first “C” that I was ever proud of.
However, that p & s class really took the fun out of my lofty ideals of chance. When everything can be precisely predicted and calculated down to exact numbers…well, where’s the fun in that? I mean, if you look at the back at your lottery ticket and see that your chance of winning is 1 in 400 thousand trillions, why even get your hopes up and waste your dollar? I so wanted to waste that dollar, but p & s class prevented me. See what that class did to me?!
Of course, had I taken the college level algebra class, I don’t think I’d be sharing this nightmare with you…it would be difficult to type wearing a straight jacket.
I give you, my faithful readers, one absolutely beautiful fact (the ONLY beautiful one) about algebra. The word “algebra” means “a reunion of broken parts.” Poetic, isn’t it? So, poetic, that I used it for the title of my book of poetry. I will let you know when I publish it.
1writeplacewordpress at gmail dot com or you can private message me on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/patti.hall.3950
Hey, I hope you find time to check out some of the other A-Z April Challenge blogs here:
April 28, 2014 at 9:41 am
Prob and stat nearly halted my college career. And the thought of needing a statistics class kept me from going on to get my MBA. I did not get the math gene either.
April 28, 2014 at 10:14 am
I probably should say none of this, but I get sick of hearing how hard math is. You cannot do well in life without it, at least the basics. By background is NOT math, it is literature and philosophy. There is this horrid message going all across the country that math is hard. It does NOT have to be hard. Life is a giant math word problem when it comes down to it. It is problem solving which is exactly what math does, solve problems. We need to get another message out and approach this differently.
April 28, 2014 at 10:44 am
I agree with you. I think the problem is everyone understands and learn math differently. Math teachers tend to be people who are a bit more on the logical side and less on the empathy (not always though) and so they tend to teach to that set of people. A person needs to find out a method of learning math (or anything) that works well for them, which can be a challenge in and of itself. I’ve heard good things about how Kahn Academy teaches though. I keep meaning to check that out.
I think for me is having that “click” moment with math, where you understand what the heck is going on. 🙂
May 1, 2014 at 11:21 am
Sorry that this struck a bad chord with you, Juliana. We were sharing our own unfortunate experiences. Math IS hard, for some of us, that’s just a reality. I love your analogy that life is a “giant math word problem,” and we all know how hard life can be.
If our community included a majority of school children or college students, I could see the value of putting a more positive spin on my math struggles. As it is, most of us are older and many are retirement age.
I’m glad that you are here and making note of the other side of the coin, and that you are obviously a teacher who will help her students see and experience math in a positive way. We need more teachers like you.
May 1, 2014 at 6:37 pm
Although I am old enough to retire, I have no desire whatsoever to do so. We will never prosper as a nation and compete in the modern and future world if we do not change this negative view of math. Students walk into the classroom thinking they cannot do something when they have not yet even tried it. If you think something will be hard, you have already made it so.
May 1, 2014 at 9:35 pm
I agree, the positive approach is always the best. Thanks for stopping in again 🙂
May 11, 2014 at 2:54 pm
Juliana, I am one those students who really REALLY wanted to understand math, algebra, geometry, statistics when I was (much) younger but damn if I never quite got it. Yet, today I work as a health statistics analyst. The reason: I was inspired by a statistics professor, someone who had the creativity to talk about statistics in terms that a layperson could understand (her favorite examples included cookies). But I didn’t have this professor until my late 30s. In previous courses I was often browbeaten and humiliated for my lack of comprehension. So I’m thinking the problem isn’t so much that “math is hard” than it is that some teachers don’t want to make the effort to Teach. They perpetuate the “math is hard” concept because it makes them feel superior. It’s unfortunate that it took me until a 2nd grad degree to find a professor who not only loved statistics but loved to teach and inspire. We need more of those teachers in secondary schools so students can be inspired sooner rather than later.
May 1, 2014 at 11:07 am
That is a shame that math stopped you, but I certainly understand, Pamela. I got lucky with P & S, with just a bit of strategy 🙂 I chose my teacher well and took it in a more relaxed summer class. I do (thank heavens) have a tenacious gene! 🙂
April 28, 2014 at 9:46 am
I didn’t know that was the translation of the term Algebra, that’s a cool way to define it 🙂 chuckle at the P&S class remark though lol! sorri if I misunderstood that however 😀
May 1, 2014 at 11:29 am
You did not misunderstand and thank you for stopping by and commenting. Yes, I love that definition of algebra so much! It was a beautiful discovery when I researched this post.
April 28, 2014 at 9:48 am
I had to take IDS (interdisciplinary statistics) 301 in college. I had a 43 average and got a C because the teacher had to do a bell curve everyone was doing so poorly. Sort of sad to say I passed because everyone else was failing too.
May 1, 2014 at 11:31 am
That happened in my P & S class too. It was/is good to know that I was not the only one who struggled with it! Thanks, Susan.
April 28, 2014 at 11:46 am
Oh you must hate me then. I taught college algebra and graduate stats in college!
Timothy S. Brannan
The Other Side, April Blog Challenge: The A to Z of Witches
May 1, 2014 at 11:37 am
Nope, no hate around here. Everyone has their gifts, and you have one that most of us would love to have. I was an honor student all through both colleges, so the math struggles were especially hard to take. Thanks for stopping by and being so brave 🙂
April 28, 2014 at 12:21 pm
Oh math. Ick. I had a tutor for the last two years of high school, as well as attending a summer session. My fear of math, and my ineptitude for it keep me from pursuing grad school, because of the GRE. Math, ick.
May 1, 2014 at 11:39 am
Thanks for joining in and sorry to bring back that math ick.
April 28, 2014 at 4:04 pm
Xcellent choice – It’s either that or xylophone!
May 1, 2014 at 11:40 am
Thanks, Marian. Oh I love the clear bright sounds of the xylophone!
April 28, 2014 at 11:15 pm
I remember some of those math nightmares. Thanks for passing on the definition of algebra. Have fun I assume in Packwood.
May 1, 2014 at 11:44 am
I know! And I remember you in dental school and Rox in nursing school, and it truly helped me keep pushing forward. That definition was the gem inside an ugly old stone. Nope, leaving for Packwood tomorrow. Just needed a grief break. xo
April 29, 2014 at 7:18 pm
Vic said the hardest class he ever took was when I took Chemistry 101 at Colgate when I was in my early 30s. I first got a BA in International Government. No math needed for that. In my 30s, I went back to get a BS in Nutrition. Chemistry demands math. I was with freshman and sophomores fresh out of high school algebra. It had been over 15 years since I’d had a math class. Vic tutored me and I learned chemistry and algebra at the same time. I was a defensive, overwrought student with little confidence, many tears, and stubborn determination. Poor Vic.
May 1, 2014 at 11:50 am
I love your funny twist on this. Yes, I was also a “defensive, overwrought student with little confidence, many tears, and stubborn determination. ” I was buzzing on finding my writer’s voice, then math gave me a smack-down. As always, I love your Vic memories…
May 1, 2014 at 11:27 am
Thanks for joining in on this, Bradley. I do remember some awesome ah-ha moments with math, and they really fueled me to keep going forward. I think/hope things are better now and teachers are better at acknowledging and teaching to different learning styles.
May 11, 2014 at 2:56 pm
Great post, Patti, and lively discussion 🙂 Sorry about my rant … I mean, my reply to Juliana, in case it sounds too strident. But we are not the ones perpetuating the “math is hard” idea 😉
May 12, 2014 at 12:25 am
No apologies needed, Marie. This topic gets a lot of us heated up. I’m glad you chimed in. Teachers can make such a difference! We’ve both had many and can certainly attest to how they can turn us on or off a subject. Thanks for being here 🙂