Mathochism: Winding down

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

The fall semester is almost at an end. The lecture portion of my algebra class ended last Wednesday, and the first of two review sessions was yesterday.

Our last chapter test was Monday, and covered square roots, the Pythagorean theorem and the quadratic formula. Taking it felt a lot less stressful than taking the other four chapter tests, mainly because I knew the dour professor drops one test, and *BRAG ALERT! UNSUPPORTIVE CLOSE RELATIVES MAY WISH TO STOP READING AT THIS POINT!*

I got a 95 on the fourth test, which put me solidly into the A category.
So test 5 was kind of a gimme, though I still studied because it’s all going to be on the dreaded final. And, as the dour professor has taken pains to remind us, “if you don’t pass the final, you won’t pass the class!”

Part of that studying took place in the jury room at my local courthouse. The government certainly wasted no time in recruiting me for jury duty, though I’ve barely been American a year.

The quiet jury room was definitely a better study environment than the smelly math lab. Or at least it was until we were all summoned to a court room at about 2 p.m.

I didn’t get picked, and that had more to do with the prosecutor’s discomfort with journalists on the jury than my math phobia. This is just as well; I was having trouble listening to the judge, because I was somewhat obsessed with a homework problem I couldn’t solve earlier.

But back to the test, the whole experience was far more pleasant than before. Unfortunately, much of the class had the same laissez-faire attitude, and the dour professor was not pleased. He shook his head over low scores and undone homework, and, as always, threatened us with The Final. No one, he intoned ominously, has ever gotten a perfect score on The Final.

Well, I am not aiming at perfection, though I have to admit it felt incredible to *BRAG ALERT! BRAG ALERT! UNSUPPORTIVE CLOSE RELATIVES STOP READING NOW!* get the Scantron back with 100 percent on it. And not only that, but the final chapter test had 25 questions instead of 20, which upped the chances of screwing up considerably. Showing up to jury duty with homework instead of a romance novel clearly paid off.

Still, the fact that the rest of the class tanked it made the review session a bit tedious, because the dour professor just went over test questions, and did not cover anything else. He has given us the option of just showing up and signing in on Monday, and I may take it, depending on whether I come across something impossible or not.

I am inclined not to go. The class atmosphere has never been congenial, thanks to the multiple loudmouths who have banded together to form a peanut gallery. While it is true that the dour professor is not a warm and fuzzy sort, and doesn’t have the panache that made pre-algebra with the dapper professor such a satisfying experience, he does know his stuff. He is very invested in making sure we learn it, and is meticulous and reliable.

The peanut gallery, however, persists in being disrespectful. One bro has obviously seen “The Breakfast Club” one too many times, though I am sure that the John Hughes oeuvre came out half a decade before he was born. He has done a terrible Judd Nelson impression on several occasions. He even said “crystal!” in the same tone as Nelson’s character when asked if a concept was clear. I confess my eyes hurt from rolling by the end of that class.

Then, there’s drama bro. This is the same fellow with the deep voice who tried to get befuddled woman to stay in class earlier in the semester. Apparently, drama bro had made some deal with the dour professor which allowed him to miss more than the requisite four sessions. Unfortunately, when he reminded the dour professor of this alleged deal, the dour professor had no memory of it. Things got ugly, and I swear drama bro had tears in his eyes as a result.

Now, I can sympathize with the concept of getting so angry you start to cry. This is something I have struggled with for years. I also commend any bro who can actually show an emotion other than anger without fearing Broland’s retribution.

That said, there is no crying in Algebra!

The dour professor laid out the rules from the beginning. He made it clear he was a hard-ass, and encouraged those who could not give their all to the class to drop it. He played no games. But obviously, drama bro is such a special snowflake that requirements don’t apply to him. I wonder how he drives. Is he one of those jerks who pass people on the shoulder, or take the carpool lane while alone in the car?

Finally, there’s genius bro. Genius bro blurts out answers at inappropriate moments. Genius bro also takes it upon himself to act as the dour professor’s simultaneous translator. I have often wanted to take genius bro aside and tell him “You are not as smart as you think you are. You could, in fact, become smarter by just shutting up and listening.”

I am, however, also determined to not become a crotchety crone — or am I too late? — so I have bitten my tongue. But I did get a revenge of sorts on genius bro. He did not get a 100 on the last test. Had he not been so arrogant, he might have done better.

And now, in the interest of not being arrogant, the studying for The Final begins. If I don’t pass the final, I won’t pass the class!

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


  • LOL!
    I definitely feel your pain in dealing with “Bro-land”- I experienced a lot of “Get the hell off my lawn!” urges as a returning student in the past. But it’s the job of the prof to keep the rabble in line, (aka NOT MY JOB!)so I did a lot of tongue biting instead.
    Interesting introspection on Drama bro’s driving- hmmm… wonder I hate driving by (your college) when school’s in!

  • Amen, Susan. There are plenty of nice people too — male and female — but it only takes one jackass to kick down a barn. Fortunately, I got a lot out of this class. I just hope none of these fools is in Algebra II.

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