Mathochism: Avoiding the yips

One woman’s attempt to revisit the math that plagued her in school. But can determination make up for 25 years of math neglect?
We had our first test in pre-calculus yesterday. I spent a week studying. I did all the homework. And I was terrified the whole time.

You see, the last time I took a pre-calculus test, I failed it. And this was not a test I took 20-plus years ago. It was a test I took less than three months ago. That failure is still giving me the yips.

True, that test was not taken under the best of conditions. It was at 7:15 a.m., and I am NOT a morning person. It had a lot of new material. I barely had time to study (about a day). But I had expected to maybe get a C. Certainly not an F! Fs belonged to my former math-phobic self.

It really shook my confidence.

It shook my confidence to the extent that, now that I’ve taken this second test, I am unwilling to prognosticate the results. There was really nothing on there that felt impossible. And I almost took the maximum time to solve the 30 problems, which included going back over each problem and making sure I hadn’t made a mistake.

This doesn’t mean I didn’t make mistakes, of course.

Like several of my past instructors, the Youthful Professor drops the lowest exam grade. I’d rather save that gift for a later test, though. There’s also the chance I may miss one, since I have some travel plans later in the fall which mean I will miss at least one class.

And speaking of past instructors, I saw my first pre-calc professor just before the test. I haven’t seen him since the summer, and I figured it’s because he usually keeps an early schedule. I didn’t get a chance to speak to him, since he was deep in conversation. But part of me felt I shouldn’t. It was like an omen, and I’m not sure it was a good omen or a bad one.

I guess we’ll see next week. If I do well on this test, seeing my former prof before a test may be a good luck charm. He’ll be the human equivalent of the Peach Snapples I no longer consume due to my health plan.

I realize superstition has no place in mathematics. But if it helps me avoid the yips, I’m all for it.

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

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