Mathochism: A painful withdrawal

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

Things started positively enough this morning. We covered translations, which are all about graphing a function and moving it up, down, right, left, flipping it, thinning it, etc.

I felt very comfortable with this, since I remembered it from the Brofessor’s class, and it’s actually something he taught me successfully without my needing outside help.

But at the end of the class, we got our tests. I was resigned to a B, or a high C.

I got an F. 58 percent, two points from 60. Two points from a D.

I was in shock. This was mostly old material, stuff I’d aced in Algebra. Ironically, I got most of the trig function/unit circle material, the new material, right.

But it didn’t matter. I’d still failed. In my shock, I started tearing up, but managed to pull it together. I went up to the instructor, and asked if it was too late to withdraw. He urged me to come to his office hours after class, so we could go over the exam and see what had gone so very wrong.

I took him up on his offer. It turns out I made a lot of sloppy arithmetic mistakes, and one method mistake with an inequality.

So in short, I choked.

I feel absolutely terrible. But I think I know what happened — it was rusty algebra, combined with sleep deprivation, bad morning brain and test anxiety. Not a good combination, and one that’s only bound to get worse. If I choke like this on simple material I already know, how on earth will I do when faced with something more complex?

The intensity and the early hour of this course is clearly too much for me.

Therefore, I have made a painful decision. I have dropped the class and signed up for pre-calc this fall. It’s still a morning class, but it stretches over 16 weeks instead of six. That pace should be easier. It is also one hour a day, which is more digestible.

Of course, this late in the registration game, only two sections were
available, and one (whyyyyyyyyyy???????) was taught by the Brofessor. Choosing the devil I don’t know, I went for the other section, though the reviews on were skewed to the bad.

But I’m hoping for the best. I plan to go over the material as much as possible this summer, and hopefully be in good shape by fall. It turns out my former pre-calc instructor is teaching calculus in the spring. Perhaps I can get his section. It’s only been a week, but I believe I’m going to miss him.

And I think he was disappointed that I was leaving. He understood, of course, but I got the feeling he liked me and wanted me to do well.

As sad as I am about this, though, I think this is the best way to go. You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to … well, you know.

So Mathochism is on hiatus again for a month or so. And if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go take a nap.

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


  • Not so much a retreat, as a strategic repositioning. You’ll get it. 🙂

  • Thank you, CaitieCat! I really needed to hear that. I’m still self-flagellating.

  • He urged me to come to his office hours after class, so we could go over the exam and see what had gone so very wrong.

    I took him up on his offer.

    That sounds like a good teacher, encouraging you to figure out what went wrong instead of just letting you leave in frustration. And good on you for going through the exam with him, so you could make an informed decision. Self-flagellating doesn’t help fix anything (though Maud knows I do it, too)– trouble-shooting does, though. I hope you have a chance to take calc with him.