52 Gratitudes 2017 | 23-27
stories 2017 | whole story

stories 2017 | then there is math


Many years ago, when I was in 8th grade, I had been placed in a higher level math class where I was challenged with pre-algebra and because I had done well enough and showed potential for mathematics, it was recommended I continue on in my math studies. Thus, as a new student to high school in my 9th grade year I signed up for Algebra I without any qualms of finishing strong and doing well. Even then I fully expected to continue on with Geometry and Algebra II, at a minimum, while in my secondary education studies.

The first semester went satisfactorily. I enjoyed Algebra, but found it was necessary for me to complete all the practice work to grasp the formulas and problems.

But, towards the end of the semester I noticed Algebra becoming exceedingly difficult for me to grasp. I did not hesitate to ask questions in class and, at first, this wasn't a problem.

When the second semester rolled around and we returned to classes from Christmas break, having a few weeks off of school, and Algebra becoming noticeably more difficult, I didn't enter the second half with as much aplomb. Rather, I was anxious.

My teacher was an older gentleman (who was probably only in his 40's but a 9th grader always sees someone in their 40's as really old) who shall remain nameless (only because I don't remember his name), who had begun, with me alone, the most frustrating and humiliating endeaovr any teacher could ever do with his student. To this day I'm mystified as to why.

Every time I asked a question he would laugh.

Early on in the second half of the semester, he'd answer the question but it would be succeeded with a chuckle. The chuckle and laugh became the routine. I would raise my hand during class because I had a question. He would chuckle or laugh.

Then, after a couple months, when I would raise my hand he wouldn't only chuckle and laugh, he just wouldn't call on me.

So - I stopped asking questions.

My grades plummeted. I finished the semester with a D. Because I had made an A in the first semester I finished the year with a B-, but that year of Algebra finished me for math. All those years ago, there was only a two- math requirement to graduate. Rather than continue on to Geometry or Algebra II, instead, I took Business Math.

In my first year of community college I didn't even take a math class. I filled the semester with degree-related classes, instead, though not something a student could do now. Because I joined the military after my first year of college I didn't have to decide when math would be on my class schedule. But,

My mindset had already shifted.

I no longer believed I was capable of math.

Several years later, when I attended weather forecasting school, I struggled with the only math-related block of study - physics. Those old feelings of hating math, believing I was incapable of grasping the concepts rushed to the surface and, embarrassingly, I even had to re-take the four-week block. But, the second time around was different. I had figured things out. Physics wasn't impossible for me to grasp.

It just took me more time to grasp the concepts.

It was a dimly lit lightbulb. Dimly. Yet, lit.

Then, several years after that I decided I should finish my degree, changing majors from criminal justice to meteorology. While the degree required meteorology-related classes that involved math, I was only required to take two levels of math. Heading back into college I kept the semesters filled with everything but math. I even took statistical climatology before I finally had to think about a math class if I wanted to finish my bachelor's degree.

Then, finally, having enrolled at a local university to finish all the core classes I'd never completed over the past 10 years of piecemealing a degree together, in the spring semester I had to take College Algebra I. And,

I had grown up.

I was in my 40's and while high school 9th Algebra was in my mind, it was in the back of my mind. Not front and center. Over the years, successfully completing class after class, as an older-age adult, I no longer believed I couldn't make it through Algebra I. Somewhere along the way that lightbulb had brightened with each passing success.

I knew it would be difficult, but I already figured out I have to practice math if I'm going to - get it.

I finished the semester with a B.

I was down to one class to finish my bachelor's degree. Calculus I. When I said I only needed two math classes to finish my degree I didn't mention that one of them had to be Calculus.

Because I desperately wanted to finish my degree I took a Calculus class on the summer semester schedule.

An entire 4-month class, in 8-weeks.

But, here's the deal. I was older and wiser. My mindset had shifted. My focus was on point. Okay, 8 weeks was going to be a bear, crazy, unbelievably difficult, plus...It. Was. Calculus.

It was one class. My focus was calculus. I did all the practice problems. If I didn't understand something I asked the professor. She answered all my questions. I remember the first time she said, "That's a great question!" and proceeded to explain the problem further on the board, I was ecstatic! I smiled the rest of class. My professor was teaching college as her night job.

Her day job was a high school math teacher.

I also remember the first test I made a 100% on. I was the only student who made a 100% that day.

I finished my 8-week college Calculus I class with an 89.3% grade point average. I was .7% from an A.