Monthly Archives: May 2010

Mathochism: The logarithms of wrath

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

Like the Central Intelligence Agency, the Brofessor continues to disavow any responsibility for past events. His perfunctory teaching over the past months is not, according to him, responsible for most of the class failing the last test, any more than it is the CIA’s fault that — well, perhaps I should stop there. The blogs have ears, and all that.

But I must stop kvetching about the Brofessor, because I have bigger troubles: Logarithms. We were introduced to these beasties earlier this week — I have no memory of studying them last time I took this class in high school — and I’ve found myself turning back into dreaded befuddled girl every time I’ve confronted them.

Can it be I’ve hit the wall at last?
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Mathochism: Quite the pig’s breakfast

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 finally got my third test back tonight.

I got a 79. A high C. One point from a low B. It is the worst test score in my Mathochism career (albeit a decent grade had this been the bad old math days). Sigh. I had a feeling I wasn’t going to do well on this one. After all, my brain was pudding that night, and not the tasty kind, either.

Still, I actually did quite well. I got the third highest score in the class, and the highest score was 82. Yep, a low B. In fact, most of the class failed this one, with some students scoring 19, others 29. Compared to that, a 79 seems stellar, does it not?

And if you think the class didn’t take this well, you’d be right. The Brofessor didn’t take it well either. He ranted at us for a while about how we were being lazy and sloppy and generally bad.
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Mathochism: Life lessons

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 still don’t know how badly I did on that last math test. I still don’t know because the Brofessor didn’t get around to grading the tests in time for our second class. He had a reason — apparently he and his wife are moving into a new house. Moving can be stressful. I understand that. But I have little patience for someone who in one breath expects forgiveness for not meeting a deadline while in the next breath condemns those who do the same.

Well, not quite the same. Shortly after confessing he had yet to finish grading tests, the Brofessor was grumbling about the fact that some students don’t finish all their homework between classes. I admit I don’t always, because deadlines for paid work, or unpaid work, or just life gets in the way. We all have lives outside of class, after all. We have families, and jobs, and even other classes.

But I, and most of my classmates, turn in our work when it’s due — that is every Wednesday. And we accept that, should we fail to turn in the homework, we will get half-credit. We also accept that being late to class docks us points, and that we are only allowed to miss four classes a semester. Or at least, I think most of us do, because I have yet to see the kind of drama between teacher and student I saw last semester.
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RA Diaries: Unsolved mysteries

I’ve always loved reading mystery novels.

It started with the Famous Five and Kalle Blomkvist; then, when we moved to the Americas, it continued with Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden and the Hardy Boys. When I got older, I was obsessed with Sherlock Holmes, Lord Peter Wimsey, Poirot and Miss Marple. I recently discovered Precious Ramotswe and William Monk.

The main attraction for me — apart from the quirky characters — was that, by the end of the book, there were always answers. The ghost was really the amusement park owner dressed up in a sheet, or the murderer was the victim’s long-lost butler, or the thieves were a rampaging pack of baboons. I suspect those tidy endings are what attract others to reading mysteries. After all, our real lives rarely wrap up so neatly.

The biggest mystery in my life is one I’ve been pondering for the last 34 years:

Why me? Why did I get RA? And why did I get it so young?
What happened to make my immune system suddenly turn on my joints?
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Mathochism: Oh, the humanity

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 had my third Algebra II test tonight.

It did not go well. I studied hard for it, I thought I had the various concepts — roots, dividing polynomials, imaginary numbers — down. But when the test was in front of me, I felt my brain turn to pudding. It wasn’t the delicious kind of pudding, either, but the kind that film-makers appear to have used in Steve McQueen’s debut film, “The Blob.”

The pudding interfered with my ability to see patterns, and seeing patterns is crucial for solving roots and for factoring. When I start seeing patterns, that’s when I know I’m in the math zone. I believe I edged into that zone a few times tonight, but not enough for me to feel good about my prospects.

Sigh. It’s enough to make me self-medicate with an entire bar of hazelnut chocolate. Well, I’ll just get back on the healthy eating wagon tomorrow!
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Mathochism: Imaginary numbers

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

Last night, the Brofessor introduced us to imaginary numbers.

Apart from being relieved to finally learn something new, I must confess I find them intriguing. This is in large part because math has always seemed to me completely devoid of imagination. I realize that sounds unfair, and that I’m still at a very nuts-and-bolts part of the process. I also realize that, should I study math past calculus, I would likely enter the more mystical realms where mathematicians and theologians finally meet.

But in the meantime, I’m still dealing with the disappointment of finding out that, were I ever to travel across the universe at light speed, math has proven that none of my loved ones would be alive when I got back. (Damn you, relativity! I want to live in a “Star Trek: TNG” universe where dilithium crystals help me warp space! And if Capt. Picard is with me, so much the better!)
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Mathochism: No solution

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

Happily, the Brofessor has been a bit more focused in the last week, though he did try to change the subject on Monday when he sensed class attention was waning. In truth, I think everyone wasn’t bored, just tired and longing to get through the material and go home.

I know I was, and actually told the Brofessor as much. I had meant to keep my mouth shut and treat him, the way a friend advised, like another problem to get through. But then he asked me what I thought, so I told him. And the funny thing is that I could actually feel the rest of the class agreeing with me, though nobody said a word.

He must have sensed their support, because he got back to work, and we got through the material and got going.
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RA Diaries: Why do you ask?

Today is Blogging Against Disablism day. Therefore, it seemed fitting for me to write down a few thoughts on an issue that has bugged me for some time: how do you deal with people, particularly strangers, who ask you about your disability?

I have had RA for 34 years, and it has left its mark. I have bent elbows, hammer toes and limp at times due to a painful knee and ankle. But none of these things are as obvious as my hands, with their swollen knuckles, swan-necked joints and limited mobility.

It is my hands who call the most attention to my disability, and over the years, I’ve fielded my share of questions about them. Many, sadly, have been rude:

“What happened to your hands? They look awful!”
“Oh my God! What’s wrong with your hands?”
“What the hell did you do to your hands?”
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