## Mathochism: Going into high-tech

One woman’s attempt to revisit the math that plagued her in school. But can determination make up for 25 years of math neglect?

I have officially left the comfort zone.

This week, we started Chapter 6. Chapter 6 is the introduction to algebraic concepts, aka “kiss them understandable numbers goodbye, missy!”

And it is the first time, in more than 20 years, that I confront those foul letters that made my math life a befuddled misery.

## Mathochism: Cheaters and fools

One woman’s attempt to revisit the math that plagued her in school. But can determination make up for 25 years of math neglect?

“The average score on this last test was 65 percent,” the dapper professor told us at the end of class tonight. “Most of you did better on the Chapter 3 test than this one. That is not good.”

I could feel my throat closing as he said it.

Had I really done so badly? The test did not feel difficult; I was completely comfortable as I converted fractions to decimals and decimals to percentages. My reptile math brain had not forgotten how to divide with a decimal point, though I had to remind myself on decimal placement during multiplication.

It seemed like forever before he called my name. I went up and got my test. I glanced at the score, terrified.

## Sibling rivalry

One of my friends has two sons.

One is almost 5, the other 2.

I remember when their mother was about 8 months pregnant with her youngest son. I had come over for dinner, and once we had finished eating, I kept her company as she went through the bedtime routine with her oldest son. After his bath, they snuggled in an armchair and read a picture book. As I watched my friend and her son in that chair — her belly was big enough by then that there was no room in her lap, and he had to sit next to her — I suddenly felt sorry for the little guy.

## Mathochism: Pass/Fail

One woman’s attempt to revisit the math that plagued her in school. But can determination make up for 25 years of math neglect?

I didn’t get 100 percent on the fractions test.

I got a 90.

This is not a bad thing. I imagine I made a mistake or two in the simplest arithmetic; I do get the technique. Besides, with this latest score, I am averaging 90 percent. That still qualifies as an A. And an A, for a math phobic, is as big a deal as getting an A as a chemistry phobic.

## Mathochism: How long can we maintain?

One woman’s attempt to revisit the math that plagued her in school. But can determination make up for 25 years of math neglect?

“‘How long can we maintain?’ I wondered. ‘How long before one of us starts raving and jabbering at this boy?'”

The above quote comes from Hunter S. Thompson, and it appears in the first few pages of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream.” In the book, Thompson, aka Raoul Duke, and his lawyer are driving to Las Vegas to cover a sporting event. They have both taken a prodigious cocktail of legal and illegal drugs, and are loopy and paranoid as a result. Still, they decide to pick up a hitchhiker, which leads Duke to wonder how long they can act normal before the hitchhiker realizes how high — and crazy — they really are.

## Mathochism: Getting fractious

One woman’s attempt to revisit the math that plagued her in school. But can determination make up for 25 years of math neglect?

Last night, I committed my first act of math rebellion.

We’ve been studying fractions for the past two weeks, and last night, we took the Chapter 3 test. Having learned my lesson from that first test, I once again took my time with each problem, and went over everything once I was done. I caught at least one mistake, and hope that will make the difference.

But here is where I rebelled: at least one test question called for finding the missing number (numerator or denominator) in a set of fractions.

Example: 65/91 = ?/7.

## Mathochism: Buoyed and stymied

One woman’s attempt to revisit the math that plagued her in school. But can determination make up for 25 years of math neglect?

It was the best of days, it was the worst of days.

In the best category, my test-taking strategy bore fruit at last, and I scored 100 percent on the chapter 2 test. Boom baby! Maybe I don’t suck at math as much as I thought.

## Mathochism: Accentuate the negative

One woman’s attempt to revisit the math that plagued her in school. But can determination make up for 25 years of math neglect?

I was trying to be positive without being cocky. Hubris has never been my friend, whether on a job interview, date or a standardized test.

Still, it was rather disappointing to get back my first math test in 19 years, only to find I had gotten four questions wrong. Since there were 20 questions, each worth five points, that meant I got an 80. A low B.

Back when I was a math under-achiever, this would have been just fine. Now, it’s unacceptable. It’s particularly unacceptable since I really knew the material, and had practiced it over and over, and agonized over it over and over.

## Mathochism: Getting testy

One woman’s attempt to revisit the math that plagued her in school. But can determination make up for 25 years of math neglect?

The classroom didn’t smell like feet for once.

Or at least, I don’t think it did; I may have been too nervous to notice. As I sat waiting for my dapper professor to hand me the Chapter 1 exam, I twirled a number 2 pencil with sweaty fingers. I rearranged my eraser, my Scantron (I had bought three different kinds, just to make sure), my second pencil (in case of breakages) and my four pieces of scratch paper (wouldn’t want to run out).

Then it occurred to me.

“Oh my God. I haven’t taken one of these in 19 years.”

The woman in front of me turned around. I realized I had spoken aloud.

“I know what you mean.” She chuckled. “I haven’t done this in years either.”