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.

Now in my case, I feel unfairly maligned. I studied hard for this test. I did fine on the practice tests in the books, fine on the homework. In my case, it was exhaustion, anxiety and poor health that led to my brain turning to non-tasty pudding. I’ve never been a great test-taker, and I take responsibility for that.

But the fault is not all mine. It is also the Brofessor’s fault. A big reason I did as well as I did was that I had a solid Algebra foundation thanks to the Dour Professor. I did fine as long as the material was a rehash of that class. I was shakiest when it came to the new stuff. You know, the stuff I tried my best to learn on my own, since the Brofessor was too lazy, sloppy and bad to bother teaching properly.

Had he truly applied himself to explaining these concepts, instead of skipping steps and indulging in countless digressions, perhaps I would have done better, and scored an A. For that matter, perhaps most of his class would have done better.

I doubt very much that this man will see the connection. His type never does. And all I can do now is study harder. We can get extra credit if we go back over the test and solve the problems correctly. I hope that will push my average to a high B. Then, if the last test goes as badly as the third, I may have a chance of passing.

And, once I receive my final grade, I may or may not write the Brofessor a letter giving him a piece of my mind. Well, I’ll probably write it, but I won’t send it. Some people never learn.

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



  • Please. Write the letter. Send it. Copy his department chair.
    It would be a teaspoon.

  • I will consider it. Apparently, people have complained before but the chair has done nothing. Then again, they’re having cutbacks…

  • Is there any course evaluation system at the school where you’re taking math? At the university where I am for grad school, course evaluations help determine, in the event that there’s not enough teaching to go around, which TAs get a job offer and which don’t, and they factor into tenure and promotion decisions for professors, too.

  • I believe they do random evaluations occasionally, but I’ve taken six courses at this college so far, and have not filled out one questionnaire. I think it’s a budget thing — they’re so strapped, they simply don’t have the resources to deal with it. Which sucks. Then again, tuition is ridiculously affordable, so I shouldn’t complain. And you get duds even at the most prestigious colleges.

  • If I had the brain-space, I’d complain specifically, especially since the bad teaching seems to have affected all of you. And on that note, it might be worth talking to some of the other students about it.
    Sometimes getting complaints from more than one source is what makes the difference. One complaint, teacher and student might just not get on, two’s looking less likely, three’s a pattern…

    (I’m loving the Mathochism series, by the way. I’m at the end of my second year of a maths degree, so it’s really interesting to me, seeing “my” subject from such a different perspective. And I’m really impressed by your dedication!)

  • Terrible teaching retards math learning at every stage. It’s worse at the beginning stages, but even more advanced math learning can be messed up by a horrid teacher.

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