Mathochism: The Final heartbreak

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

Algebra is over. Unfortunately, my fragile love affair with numbers may also be over.

The Final was last night, and it was every bit as bad as the dour professor had said it would be. I wasn’t unprepared. I studied for weeks, didn’t miss a single lecture, did all my homework and all the reviews. There were no problems on the test I wasn’t familiar with, or didn’t know how to work.

Still, I will be lucky to scrape a 75. With a 75, I can still get an A in the class. Anything lower, and it’s a B. Unfortunately, anything lower than a 70, and I don’t pass the class at all. This is the math department’s policy.

Various factors led to all this heartbreak. I was felled by a nasty cold Thursday and all through the weekend. The congestion is so bad I’ve woken up several nights choking and had to take a cough remedy. This means sleep is a luxury, and the lack of it means my husband and I are sniping at each other over the best way to clean the coffee pot.

Most important, I think I may have overstudied. I spent hours in the library yesterday, and by the time I got to the final, my brain was wrung out. I was making simple and silly arithmetic mistakes. I’d forgotten concepts like what a reciprocal is, or what the commutative law of algebra entails. Actually, I did know, but hesitated, and changed the answer on both problems — to the wrong answer.

That is the most frustrating part. Well, that and the fact that I couldn’t multiply 21 and 14 without getting it wrong. Had I gotten that small part right, I would have been able to factor out that square root equation with no problem.

Gah. Well, what’s done is done. I am just angry myself for stumbling like this at the finish, especially since the semester went so well. I feel like I flubbed my lines opening night, with the toughest critic in town scribbling away in the audience.

I just hope the dour professor, that toughest critic, will consider giving Whitney a break. But I don’t really deserve one. I screwed up, and it’s too bad, because his hands are tied by the math department’s policy.

It’s too bad. I thought math and I were finally becoming friends.

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


  • I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you. 75=A, 69=Failure. That doesn’t really compute, does it? I’ve done that thing where I changed the right answers to wrong ones myself and earned myself a D instead of a B on a final exam once. Not pretty. Good luck.

  • Thanks, Inna. And it’s nice to hear I am not alone in the change the answers to the wrong ones camp!

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