Mathochism: The true mathochism

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

Pre-calculus began today, and it’s going to be intense.

For one thing, class begins before 8 a.m.. It’s almost three hours long. And it’s EVERY weekday. Our first test is on Friday, and there will be five tests plus one final, which means a test a week. And I have a pile of homework I must get to as soon as I finish this.

I’m exhausted just thinking about it, but I don’t think I can stomach more coffee. Maybe a quick nap would work?

The good news is that the instructor seems great. Like the Dapper and Dour professors, he is black. But unlike them, he is American, not Nigerian. So there are no foreign accents to decipher, though I never had an issue with those.

He comes across as a consummate professional. He is an old hand at teaching this intense curriculum, and was quick yet patient, clear and determined to get through the material. He has a sense of humor, and, unlike me, is a morning person.

He is also sure we can learn this, which is nice to hear.
“Everybody can learn math,” he told us. “It’s like driving. Have you ever heard anyone say, ‘driving is not my thing’?”

I must admit I haven’t heard that too often (at least not in the Southern California car culture), though I wish some people would adopt that policy. But the instructor really won me over when he compared math to cooking. Confronting a math problem is much like confronting a recipe, he said. You have to figure out strategy, and then tackle it. As a long-time food writer and avid cook, I love that analogy.

The only thing I can criticize about him is that he likes assigning even problems. “To build confidence,” he told us. I don’t mind building confidence, but I am, and always will be, one of those people who trusts but verifies. So we’ll see how that goes.

In the meantime, it was a good start. The class dynamics are still unclear. I did not detect any obnoxious souls in the first session, but that could be because we were all exhausted. I do hope I can get a seat behind a shorter person tomorrow; the guy in front of me blocked the board.

Campus was nice and calm so early in the morning, and parking was no problem. It was amazing how much that had changed by the time class was over.

Back to old business, I still don’t know what I got in geometry. I know I could e-mail Uchitel, but part of me doesn’t want to know. You know, confidence and all that. I’ll just keep hoping for the best. Uchitel and this new instructor seem to have a similar philosophy on grading. They both say they value method over the answer. I hope I can get both right, but recognize the value in what they’re saying.

Onward and upward!

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



  • So not the Brofessor? Sounds like good news.

    Also, most every type of problem should have some method of checking the solution. Like, if you solve an equation, you can put your solution back into the original equation to see if it is correct. Hopefully your professor will suggest these methods as you go through the course.

  • No, thank heavens! This guy seems really on the ball, which is great, considering how much coffee I’m going to need for this class.
    I hadn’t considered that way of checking answers, since it didn’t seem to work for proofs and such, but thank you!

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