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.

I do kind of suck at remembering names, at least when I am not introduced to people directly with a reporter’s notebook in my hand. This is making interacting with some of my classmates a bit challenging, especially when they’ve taken the trouble to learn my name already. The worst offender is the woman who sits behind me. Well, she called me by my last name a few times (a name that these days is a common first name), but once I pointed out what my real first name was, she caught on quickly.

At any rate, this classmate seems to be under the impression that I don’t suck at math.

“So, did you get a hundred on the first test?” she asked during the second half of class (and before we got our second test back).

“No,” I said sorrowfully. “I made some silly arithmetic mistakes because I rushed. I tried not to do that on the second test, so we’ll see.”

She looked surprised, and slightly smug. I gather she scored 10 points more than I did on that first test, and thought I had beaten her. Well, I beat her on the second one, and I hope she is okay with that.

But — honestly? I don’t really care. I never agreed to compete with this woman. But the more things change, the more they stay the same — there will always be that competitive classmate who wants to know what you got.

I am not alone in being annoyed by such behavior. My undergraduate alma mater is so against it that all students are forbidden to discuss grades. It’s a clause in the honor code.

My current college has no such policies. They have other ones, though, that are downright annoying, like the requirement that all math and English students get a clearance from the instructor half-way through the course, even if it means not being able to register for the next class until few spots are left.

During our first class break the woman who sits in front of me (again, I don’t know her name, but I’m not sure she knows mine either) and I agreed to approach the dapper professor about this. Like me, she was a bit apprehensive.

“He’s a great teacher,” she said. “But he doesn’t seem to like it when you ask him questions during break.”

“Let’s double-team him,” I suggested. “And we can practice giving him puppy eyes in the meantime.”

She laughed.

“I don’t think I’m very good at that!”

I refrained from sharing my “I vamped the Calculus professor” story with her. I only share that kind of thing on the Internet.

As it turns out, though, no wiles were needed. The dapper professor had already cleared us, and when class was over, buzzed by my 100 percent, I logged on to the registration website and prepared to sign up for Algebra I this fall.

This is when the worst part happened. All 20+ sections, including ones at the ungodly hour of 7 a.m., were full.

GAAAAAAHHHH! Was my math destiny never to be fulfilled?

I felt like crying. It was like getting to the airport after three hours in traffic only to find out the flight had been cancelled and all other airlines were bankrupt.

I went to bed sad and stymied.

But overnight, a math miracle happened. I don’t know what drove me to try to register again, but I did. And this time, there were spots left.

Unfortunately, there were no night classes available, but the full-time job of my dreams seems unlikely at the moment.

And the mathochism will apparently continue.

All text copyrighted by A.K. Whitney, and cannot be used without permission.

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