Mathochism: The great math hope

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 got 90 percent on my third test. I am not unhappy about this; in fact, if I continue at this pace, I will get another A. Two math classes, two As. That is quite a feat for a math phobe!

However, as far as the dour math professor is concerned, that is not enough. You see, after getting that 100 percent, I stopped being the anonymous lady who scribbles notes in the front row. I became a symbol of a community college student who actually wants to learn something. I became The Great Math Hope.

The Great Math Hope has put in all math lab hours. The Great Math Hope has perfect attendance. And, most important, the Great Math Hope does even better on the chapter 5/6 test than the super-difficult chapter 3/4 test.

That last part is the rub.

Now, he didn’t give me any trouble for not getting 100 percent on the last test, but there was disappointment in his gaze as he returned my test. “Whitney” had let him down. “Whitney” was not brilliant after all. “Whitney’s” consistent As were likely a fluke, or worse, a cheat.

This is galling, but also a tremendous relief. Being anyone’s hope is exhausting. It strips you of your humanity, of your ability to screw up. I well remember one particularly painful break-up in my 20s, when a soon-to-be ex told me how disappointed he was that I was “just like everyone else.”

In other words, once I fell off his pedestal, he couldn’t bear to look at me.

The dour professor is not that bad. And honestly, I can’t worry about his disappointment at this point. “Whitney” may not be suited to be the Great Math Hope, but she plans to plod on just the same.

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

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