Mathochism: On thin ice

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 didn’t do as well as I’d hoped on my second Algebra II test. I got a 91. It should have been a 96; I was too quick to deem a polynomial a prime because it contained the number 17.


This disappointment, however, is dwarfed by my rising contempt for the Brofessor. We have five weeks left in the term, and he is doing the math equivalent of phoning it in. From his sloppy attire (he has worn the same ratty cargo shorts and t-shirt for six sessions in a row) to the perennial five o’clock shadow to his obvious air of ennui, it is clear he has checked out of this class. At the same time, he has no problem needling his students for not asking enough homework questions after coming back from spring break. This is coming from the same individual who couldn’t be arsed to grade a few tests in that time period!

And for the record, my homework was done — I had no questions because it was once again a rehash of Algebra I.

I can tell he feels guilty, because he has been saying repeatedly that he doesn’t want us to think he finds the material boring. But that is a lie. Yep — a big, fat, hairy lie. He is so bored by the material that he will do anything to avoid teaching it, including stopping, mid-problem, to ask the class what time period they would visit if they had a time machine.

I have an answer to that question, though I didn’t volunteer it in class: I would go back to the day I got a letter from my college telling me the dapper professor wasn’t teaching Algebra II this spring. And I would register for the other section that still had spaces in it it.

I realize this is not a particularly interesting choice, but it illustrates my frustration at dealing with this guy. I’ve even considered dropping the class, but the drop deadline is past, and I can only drop the class now without failing by talking to a faculty member, AKA the brofessor.

I’m going to have to bite the bullet, study on my own, and accept that this is bro is a dud. It’s too bad — I was enjoying the math journey before this. What galls me, though, is that I am doing this purely for fun — I don’t need to do this. I have a career, and several higher degrees, and if I were to go for a PhD, it would not be in math.

Even with the progress I’ve made over the last year, math is still hard enough for me without all these personal dynamics getting in the way. And before this, I never felt math class was a waste of time. I felt I was getting something out of it.

Now I resent going to class, and I was particularly resentful Wednesday, because I had been offered a review that night. Ever the dutiful student, I turned down a byline and some cash, not to mention the chance to take my spouse to the theater, so I wouldn’t miss class.

And what did I get? Not much math instruction! Just a lot of blather about time travel and aliens and global warming. Oh, and let’s not forget a “life lesson” about how the statistical Algebra class is a much better Real World option. As the Internet would say, MASSIVE FAIL, Brofessor. MASSIVE FAIL.

We will see how it goes Monday. In the meantime, I will do my homework, turn in my paid and unpaid work on deadline, continue to get my health under control. Someone has to be the professional, and it looks like it’s going to have to be me.

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


  • Your last graf says it all.

    Keep on keepin’ it real. You will feel proud of yourself both now and in the future.

    When I think about how LAME I’ve been treated at times and how I responded with professionalism and class, I can look back and smile (and sneer a little). I trust you will too.

    Think of the brofessor as just one more algebra problem that needs to be conquered for you to reach your goal. You rock!!

  • Thank you! I am determined to keep my cool in the next class. I fear I let my irritation show last time, and since I sit in the first row, it’s hard to miss.

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