My love of math started in high school. I enjoyed it so much I wanted to name a dog “Rhombus” and be a math teacher. Yep, I was a math nerd.

A Rhombus 
I loved math, mostly because I understood it, even though I had no idea where I’d ever use any of the concepts we learned. Our teacher, Mr. Condon, wouldn’t move to the next lesson until EVERYONE in the class understood each and every step. Because he took the time, we all got A’s and B’s.
It was great while it lasted. After high school I didn’t think much about Algebraic functions and the formula for finding the slope of a line. My aspirations of being a math teacher faded over the years as I went back to my first love, writing. All was fine in the world, until I realized I would have to take two math classes for my BA (in English). Egad, two!

Ginormous Calculator 
I took the first class, Math 130 – Intro to Statistics, over a year ago. I didn’t like it. Not one bit. I had to use the big ginormous calculator with a zillion buttons (most of which I had no idea how to use) to find long friggin calculations that made me crazy. I kept wondering, why take this because I’m never going to use it. I will admit I broke down in tears more than once trying to understand the concepts. Yes, I worked hard. Yes, I passed the class. But those eight weeks just about did me in.
I put off taking the last class as long as possible, but eight weeks ago my second (and final) math class started – Math 200 – Math for Humanities. This was supposed to be the kinder, gentler math class for those in the arts programs such as English and Creative Writing. It was an interesting class, as it dealt with many realworld scenarios. We learned about kilowatts and joules, wind machines and blood alcohol levels, perspective and how math relates to art, and the theory of voting. Plus, I realized I might really use some of this stuff one day.
The most challenging assignments in this class were not the homework math problems, but the writing. Yes, writing in a math class. Each week we had a 6 – 8 page paper due about the concepts we learned from that week, requiring an introduction, all problems worked out in explicit detail, and a conclusion. Now I really don’t mind writing papers, but these really were quite tough, in fact, I think they were much more difficult than the actual Math Lab homework problems because they required so much detail.
ButI did learn something each time I finished an assignment, making it time well spent. Plus to keep me motivated I told myself at the end of each week… three more weeks until I’m done, two more weeks… until today I can say only two more days and then I’m really done! Yes, I survived. Yes, I worked hard. And yes, I will pass the class.
Unfortunately, I wish I could say I was really done with math classes forever, but alas, I’m teaching my son Algebra right now (we homeschool) and I kind of really do need to remember the formula for the slope of a line: y = m(x) + b (in case you were wondering) and many algebraic functions. But there is one perk of being the teacher – I do have the answer book in case I get brain freeze.
So, in retrospect I did get to be a math teacher, and English, and history, and everything else I’ve taught my kids over the last twenty or more years. And just in case you hear kids ask that famous question, “Why do we have to learn this math, we’re never going to use it?” Just remind them, that someday when their own kids have math homework they will have a tiny inkling of the concepts and maybe they can even offer help in solving the problems. Maybe.
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I feel your pain, Joan. Applied Finite Math just about did me in, and I will say that ending up with an A in it was an amazing achievement. Between that class and stats, it made for a grouchy sixteen weekends as I plowed through both in misery. Imagine my thrill when my son asked me a few questions about his college stats class and I could offer some guidance. Wow! Nice post!
I had to take algebra and geometry in high school. Thank goodness for my cousin Norman who coached me over the phone, the only phone in the house, the phone tethered to the wall in the narrow hallway between the TV room and the kitchen, the phone just outside the only bathroom. It was like Grand Central Station. It was the late 1950s. no one else was gonna call me.
At the end of my career, I was teaching math to 7th graders. Like you said, I had the answer book. They also did a lot of writing in my math class. Heck, I was an English teacher in a math teacher’s clothing.
Good post, Joan. Thank you. xoA