Mathochism: The final countdown

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

Reader, I thanked him.

But I’m not sure he heard me. He smiled and nodded, but I am pretty sure he didn’t hear everything I said, which was “I’ve been a math phobic most of my life, but you’ve taught me so much, and I actually like math now. Thank you.”

I had to keep my voice low, because there were still about two dozen people working away at the final, and neither I, nor the dapper professor, wanted to disturb their concentration.

That’s right, the final.

The eight weeks are over, and the Mathochism — or at least, Chapter 1 of the Mathochism, is over.

I now have two weeks to recover, then Chapter 2 begins.

Algebra. If the class doesn’t hurt me, the flashbacks might. I wish I could remember my high school algebra teacher’s name. You know, Mrs. “What Can I Do?”

I fantasize about finding her on the Web (she must be in her 60s now) and sending her a link to this blog. Along with the link, there would be a prominent picture of me giving her the finger.

Yikes. Down girl! My apologies to anyone reading. Doing well is the best revenge. And while she certainly didn’t help me with her attitude, my own attitude sunk me further.

But back to the present — I am not assured of an A in this class yet. I would love to get one, though the grade is irrelevant when compared to the fact that I actually grasp the concepts completely and just got derailed by occasional arithmetic typos.

It all comes down to the final, and how many typos I made on that. I did go into it with a position of strength — got a 95 on the Chapter 6 test — but that position could easily be undermined, since the final is worth 150 points, or a test and a half.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous over a test before. Check rides, MA comps, the SATs? Nope. But a pre-algebra test? It was Code Red around here for a week.

I even went to my husband, and offered him $2,000 to take the test for me.

“The dapper professor won’t notice,” I promised my bemused spouse, who was trying to read some learned book. “It’s a big class. You won’t even have to wear a wig!”

For some weird reason, he refused. There was nothing for it but to go.

We had two and a half hours to answer 39 questions. I went with my strategy again — that is, solve the quick ones first, then back to the complicated ones.

Well, honestly — I sort of messed it up. I spent a precious 10 minutes factoring out 154,154, only to make a complete pig’s breakfast of it. I sighed in frustration, let it go and moved on. I could feel my math confidence slipping, and did my best to control it.

Then, something great happened. I stopped being nervous, and just went into the math zone. Everything seemed clear, and I whipped through problem after problem — even factoring out 154,154 — with ease.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t screw up somewhere. I’m sure I did. But hopefully, it won’t be so bad that I plunge my grade further than a B.

Our grades will be ready next week. The dapper professor told us to e-mail him. I may just do that. And this time, I hope to thank him in a way he can actually hear.

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


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