Mathochism: It’s a B!
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’ve been avoiding my college’s website for the last week. Part of it had to do with Christmas — there was a lot to do, such as decorating and cooking and gift-buying and card-writing.
A bigger part of it had to do with denial.
What if I had once again screwed up the final, the way I did in Geometry? What if I had gone from the grade I had earned consistently to one lower, because I screwed up problems I actually knew how to solve? And in this case, what if I went from a B to a C?
A C in precalc, after all this time and work, would make me cringe. It would make me question that tenuous notion that I may not suck at math after all. It would make me fall back into that mindset that something isn’t worth doing unless you excel at it right away.
I’ve pondered over that particular embedded theology since I wrote about it earlier in the month, and remembered an incident from my childhood.
A family friend, M, worked in aviation. But his hobby was painting. It was a hobby he’d taken up later in life, though he had likely been interested in it for years. His house was full of completed canvases, some on the walls, some stacked against them.
As I recall, M had no illusions of great talent. He didn’t try to sell his stuff, or exhibit it anywhere but at home. It was his creative outlet, and that was all.
But I remember how my father scoffed at M’s attempts. How deluded of M to do this, my father said. Who did M think he was? He certainly wasn’t any good!
At the time, my father fancied himself an art buff, and he went to a lot of exhibits and museums and subscribed to “Art in America.” We had quite a lot of original art on the walls, some that I liked, some that I didn’t.
But I never dared question my father’s expertise. I can’t say I even remember what M’s work looked like, because I’ve always been more verbal than visual. Maybe M was awful after all.
But was that really the point? The act of painting brought M joy. Learning to solve a difficult math problem has brought me joy. Maybe my father might have enjoyed doing some drawing, or painting, if someone hadn’t come along and told him it wasn’t worth doing unless he was good at it right away. Or several someones. Or all of society.
Oh well. In case you didn’t guess from the title of this post, I got a B in precalculus. B for better than average. B for bah humbug.
B for beautiful.
All text copyrighted by A.K. Whitney, and cannot be used without permission.