So, I’m taking college algebra this semester. As an online class (rather than in person with a real human teacher, just a guy who’s available to help if we have an issue of which I have myriad), I have a textbook and a pat on the back and a good luck with a thumbs up and a snicker. I haven’t done any real math other than balancing a checkbook in 30+ years. The last time I did any real math was when Mrs M was patiently waiting for the geometry to stick in my head long enough to take a test without embarrassing myself. Now, my attitude is different. Previously 30 years ago, I was content to pass. A 70 was fine. Even a 65 and begging for some last minute extra credit was ok with me. I didn’t care. I knew I wasn’t going to be an engineer or anything.
Now though, it’s different. I want to do more than pass. I want to make an A and that 30 on the quiz (that’s not 30 out of, say, 45. No. It’s a 30%. Which is bad.) says I probably won’t. However, a while back, when I knew I would have to take some sort of entrance thing and do well, or else have to take Remedial (“we don’t call it that here because some people have issues with it”)Math, Dad got me the Great Courses Algebra 1 and 2 dvds (this is an entirely uncompensated endorsement) and I’ve been watching them this weekend. The guy on them is GREAT at explaining the complexities of the assorted ways to solve quadratic equations- you know, those x²+13x-590=13x²-43, solve for x types of problems.
I see them and I think WHO CARES! BUT I CAN MAKE BISCUITS WITHOUT A RECIPE AND I KNOW HOW TO MAKE MY OWN LAUNDRY DETERGENT and all that is way more practical than whatever the square root of whatever might be.
However, it is a requirement in order to get the degree. I don’t HAVE to take the algebra, I COULD just take regular old business math but then all I’d get is a certificate that says I took some business classes, and not a degree. And I want a degree. Granted, it’s not a bachelor degree business from Harvard or Vanderbilt or anything, it’s just an associates degree from a local community college…but it is mine. Or will be. Hopefully. If I can pass the math.
In between solving for x and sobbing, No seriously, I got so frustrated with it at one point I was actually crying (and embarrassed I was, too) and ready to throw things, but didn’t throw anything and recovered my dignity before anyone saw it. (I think) and am still determined to solve for the x and not be scared of y’s.
I’ve also learned (well you see it enough on TV, what with people needing the safe places and all) that coloring helps relax my mind. I got a coloring book of mandalas, that also came with a CD so when I color them all up I can print out more and do it again. It is supremely relaxing and the opposite of solving for things that are supposed to be numbers but aren’t.
Part of the course involves a discussion board, which right now is mostly people complaining about math and how hard it is. One person made the point that it is like learning a language. I though (but didn’t say) “Right. But, I’m being told to read a novel in this language when I can barely ask where the bathroom is.” That’s sure what it feels like, anyway.
After getting the stinker of a grade on the quiz, I threw myself at the mercy of the instructor guy, in an email where I said “I DID HORRIBLE! If I go see a tutor for an hour (the school has free math tutoring, which means I’m likely not the only one with issues) may I retake the quiz? Is that a stupid question?” to which he replied something that kind of implied he may either drop the grade or let me retake…I don’t know which but after the tutoring session I’m going to email and beg. I’m not ashamed to do that. I’ve been on the President’s List for 3 semesters now and if I do poorly in the math I won’t make it this semester and you know what THAT means?! DO YOU?! It means absolutely nothing. But still.
However, between the Great Courses and Khan Academy and a bunch of YouTube videos I’m kind of figuring out the different between solving for a square and some other stuff. But right now I’m going to go color a picture and watch TV.