500 Words At A Time: Math, My Old Nemesis

“How long has it been since you took a math class?” the math advisor asked me.

“I don’t know, probably high school,” I replied and not waiting for him to do the math, “Roughly 20 years ago.”

“I will be back.”

He did come back and with another person who sat down next to me and said, “You need to be in remedial math.”

“How about we start with, who the fuck are you,” I retorted, this was the odd math story from orientation. Keep in mind I was at the end of my rope for the day and this was not how it was all supposed to go.

“He is the math department head,” the advisor said for shock-faced math department head.

He wouldn’t have been shocked had he taken five seconds to say “Hello, I’m so and so” or extend a hand in greeting. Nope, he sat down and without any information other than I haven’t had a math class in 20 years, determined I really needed a huge refresher. Unfortunately, this did not work for me.

“Has math changed that much since the last time I had to add something together?” I asked. “I’m going to guess no. I could use a refresher in algebra, lets do that.”

And that is the story of how I ended up in an Algebra class, with a calculator I did not know how to use, and the end of my orientation story.

Math and I have an interesting history. I sucked at math. There was nothing and nobody who get me to like math. Understand math’s usefulness for sure. Be able to do anything with confidence beyond the basics, no way. Thus, when I was in college the first time, I did not take math. As far as I was concerned, math had nothing to do with psychology or history. Yes, I know there was a flaw in my thinking, but I was doing my best to avoid my nemesis.

This explains rather clearly why from the end high school to 2011 other than math necessary for gaming or game design, which turns out was a lot, only I did not realize it, I had not taken any formal math classes. I was, and Barb can verify this, freaked out by my upcoming math class. I was positive that I would not get math and I would fail. This was before the first class and yes, some of you psychologically oriented people can see that even though I was ready to quit at orientation, with that experience behind me I wanted to be successful.

I got lucky. This theme of me getting lucky will show up a lot. The professor was awesome. I didn’t think so at first when the professor announced that calculators would not be used for the first semester. What?! I bought a new calculator that I did not know how to use! Three things came out of that first semester of algebra:

  • I found some like minded individuals to form a study group, the Sons of Algebra.
  • I made a good friend
  • I learned that not only could I do math, I was good at it, good enough to assist members of the study group

I passed the class without having to take the final with an A. Next semester, a different professor, same class of people for the most part. The professor was just as awesome as the first professor, maybe even a little bit more because this professor spent one class teaching people how to use their calculators. Something I carry with me today, not the calculator, but the knowledge of how to make it work. By the end of the year I no longer feared math. Thus, when another professor suggested I take a stats class for the research we were doing, I did…but that is another 500 Words or three…

2 thoughts on “500 Words At A Time: Math, My Old Nemesis

  1. Excellent story. I’m done with school types officiating with rudeness myself. But that’s another story as well. I’m the same way about math in general, though that was due to a sour experience I had with a high school teacher that gave up on the kids who were struggling and focused on the star students. I will resent her forever.

    1. Ankoku1331

      Thank you. I’m almost done with school types, rudeness I fear is around to stay for the or at least my foreseeable future. That is unfortunate that one teacher had such an affect upon you and I will guess other students. 😦

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