Mathochism: Plotting, plotting

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’m not feeling the graph love. Not at all.

Unfortunately, Chapter 4 is all about graphs. And plotting. And xs and ys. And slopes. And point slope form. And solid and dotted lines. And inequalities, some which require solid lines and others which require dotted ones.

Ick. I don’t know exactly why I have such an aversion to it all. Graphs are probably the least abstract parts of Algebra, since you can see exactly what’s going on. Maybe it’s the added chore of drawing a grid each time, numbering it, etc. I may just be lazy. I like to just solve the equation — in and out. Wham and whir — thank you sir.

Now, I was actually looking forward to Chapter 4, if only because it got me away from the word problem hell that was Chapter 3. Or rather, the first part of Chapter 3. The second part of Chapter 3 dealt with another nightmarish part of my math past — geometry.

I have written before about failing geometry the first time, and how that F haunted my GPA forever, in spite of taking the subject again and getting a B. I have, however, not talked about the circumstances of that F.

I was attending an international school abroad at the time, and, in spite of charging steep tuition, said school had a very hard time finding qualified English-speaking math and science teachers. That’s why my chemistry teacher was a former ballet dancer and my geometry teacher was a former nurse.

The worst was the former nurse, who seemed to have some serious memory problems. I remember asking her a question, and her peering at me near-sightedly.

“Are you in this class?”

I usually sat in the front row.

A short aside — one of my husband’s oldest friends is dating a woman who is a dead ringer for that geometry teacher. I have yet to feel the love for this friend’s girlfriend. Is it a classic case of counter-transference?

But anyhow — my second geometry teacher, at the American public school I attended after the family moved to California, was a pro. But I was so scarred from my first experience that geometry felt like torture. Oh, the theorems! Bleah!

Unfortunately, my community college requires me to take plane geometry before I get to take pre-calculus. I am hoping to take it during the shorter summer term. We’ll see if the economy will let me — I have no illusions that the college won’t once again cut back heavily in the shorter terms. This budget crisis is going nowhere.

Sooo… between the tiring graphs and the math problems and the geometry, it’s been quite the mathochistic two weeks.

And the Chapter 3-4 test was tonight.

Since I’m determined to do well in Algebra this time, I’ve been studying like a mad-woman for a week, and have had little time for anything else. I had my husband quiz me on formulas. I’ve gone through reams of graph paper, and sharpened my pencils again and again.

And guess what? The test felt like a complete anti-climax. There were 18 questions, and nothing felt mind-boggling. It all felt pretty rote. There were no truly tricky word problems, and none of the volume formulas I had so painstakingly memorized were necessary.

I know I am jinxing myself now, but it really felt fine. I guess we will see on Monday.

One last thing — the class mutiny has improved since befuddled woman dropped out. I hope for her sake that she transferred to a class where the professor was a better fit. Maybe she, like me, can overcome her math phobia with the right instructor.

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

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