Mathochism: A different 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?

Having to withdraw from pre-calc after failing the first test was still bothering me this morning, even as I relished sleeping in, having a leisurely breakfast and a long shower.

But as I was drying my hair, I had an idea. Why not go to the pre-calc professor’s office after class, and ask him if I could sit in on lectures a few days a week?

After all, I’d been planning to go through the material at a more leisurely pace anyway, since I feel a bit leery of my fall instructor’s reviews on, and want to be prepared. And the college is not giving me a refund, even though I am avoiding a “W” on my transcript.

Moreover, they’re changing pre-calc books next semester, so I will wind up with two in my library once Mathochism is done.

The obstacle, of course, was if the professor objected. I had a contingency plan — if he objected, I would ask him for guidance on what to study, and whether he could recommend an online or campus resource.

But he didn’t object. In fact, he was very nice about it, and I think maybe even a bit flattered. I asked if he could tell me which parts of the course were particularly crucial (acknowledging that I understood that all of it was important), and he mentioned logarithms (shudder) and all things trig. So now, I plan to go over the syllabus, pinpoint when he is teaching those sections, and attend those lectures. I will also see which sections I find particularly befuddling, and attend the lectures that cover those.

I’m thinking this will entail attending about three classes a week. I will not go to test day lectures.

It’s going to be an interesting experiment, and one I truly hope will help me ace pre-calc when I take it officially this fall.

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



  • Good move! Also, see if they have the Standard Deviants video on calculus at the library. Very handy for logorithms. I’m proud of you! Don’t give up!

  • That sounds like a great plan. It will give you more time to work on things at your own pace, and give you the perfect prep for when you take the course in the fall.

  • Thanks!

  • Excellent choice! I hope it works for you.

  • It’s certainly less stressful!

  • This is a great plan — I’m a mathematics major, probably starting masters work next year, and I always read a book or watched lectures on a subject the summer or winter break before taking the course. Math, more than anything, sometimes just takes a lot of time to sink in.

    For studying up on pre-calc, I also highly recommend the Khan Academy videos on precalc ( and trigonometry (

  • Great idea! Having more opportunity to reinforce new concepts never hurt anybody.

  • I was going to suggest auditing the class, but then I decided that you might not appreciate the suggestion. I was also going to recommend the Khan Academy videos.

    I’ve been following your progress, and cheering for you.

  • Thanks, Quercki. And I will definitely be watching those videos. Looks like a great resource!

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