Mathochism: Getting into it

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

Finally, the actual Algebra has begun.

Starting with chapter 2, the variables and the equations have become my constant companions (Get it? Constants? Gotta love math humor!), and it’s not as terrifying as I expected.

I’m actually getting it, even though I still have reservations about the textbook and the class.

Thankfully, the textbook author refrained from getting too political in the chapter 2 homework. Though there was a word problem dealing with the fact that men earn more money than women, and guess what? The author made no editorial comment about that whatsoever!

The professor and the class dynamics are bigger issues.

While I still miss the dapper pre-algebra professor, whose teaching style meshed well with my learning style, I must concede this guy isn’t bad. I follow him quite well, and his accent doesn’t deter me. I wish I could say the same about him. He appears to have trouble understanding most of the students, and even the simplest, most clearly spoken question takes him aback. To be fair, once he grasps the question, he goes the extra mile to answer it, and answers it in at least three different ways, and makes absolutely sure you get it.

But other students are struggling with his accent and his way of dealing with questions. It’s the third week of class, and there’s mutiny in the air. True to form, we have the classroom loudmouth (actually – oh joy – there’s more than one) and the befuddled girl, and they are the most vocal about their grievances.

No, make that befuddled woman. She must be in her mid 50s, and she reminds me a bit, though only in physical appearance, of a close relative of mine who went back to community college at that age. Now, I applaud this woman’s thirst for knowledge (I’m closer in age to her than I am to many of the other students) but her constant confusion is interrupting the flow.

For example, we were looking at word problems and talking about consecutive odd and even numbers. She simply wouldn’t grasp that what evens and odds have in common is the number two. As in: 1 plus 2 is 3, 3 plus 2 is 5; or 2 plus 2 is 4, 4 plus 2 is 6, etc. etc.

She couldn’t explain to the professor why she was confused. He was unable to translate her incoherent question, though he gave it his best. Cue the loudmouth, who has appointed himself the professor’s unofficial translator, or else feels he is more qualified to teach than a PhD. He did his best to condescend to both befuddled woman and the professor. She continued to be stubbornly befuddled. The other loudmouths chimed in.

The professor finally grasped the question, and tried to explain, but the loudmouths talked over him. Finally, befuddled woman snapped.

“I’d like to hear the explanation from the professor, please!”

Thankfully, the loudmouths shut their pieholes. Unfortunately, since befuddled woman slowed the lecture to a crawl, the professor had to speed up to catch up. He also ran out of space to write, so he erased an older problem. Before he does this, he always asks the class if that is ok.

But this time, befuddled woman said no. She continued saying no every time he asked. The second time, the professor told her she needs to write faster if she is going to keep up. She retorted that he is blocking the board.

It happened two more times. He got annoyed with her, and she with him.
He suggested she change seats, because she is the only person in class having this problem, and kept writing. She huffed and puffed and packed up her bag.

“Please don’t leave, ma’am,” said a deep voice in the back row.
“I’m not!” She retorted. “I’m just moving desks!”

I can’t help but be a bit annoyed at Mr. Deep Voice’s assumptions. It was pretty clear she was moving, not stomping off in a huff. Besides, why was it any of his business anyway? And why continue to delay the class with some imagined drama?

I do hope things will settle down next week. Learning in the midst of a mutiny is going to be a pain.

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

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