Thursday, January 8, 2009

Portrait of the blogger as a failed math student

Tomorrow I take my assessment exam. I don't have high hopes. I'm expecting to be put in basic algebra. Placement in intermediate algebra would be nothing short of miraculous. Pre-algebra would be a humiliating setback, but at least it might be easy. Tonight I'm going to do one more review and hope that the practice questions help me not to make too poor a showing.

I feel almost as though this is some sort of disability. Curious, considering that I scored a decent but not great 650 on my math SAT just before my senior year. But that was a surprise to me at the time, too. Like most women, who attribute their success to chance and the pity or ulterior motives of others, I chalked it up to dumb luck and multiple choice format.

While I suppose being able to choose from a, b, c, or, d may have had something to do with my score, I suppose it's finally time to face the likelihood that I may not have been as bad at math as I thought I was. For one thing, I did pass Algebra II, the only class in which I ever got a quarter grade of D and the last math class I ever took--with a C average--but it was, after all, a passing grade. There was one quarter, sophomore year, when I got a D in Algebra II. But now that I think back, there was probably a lot more to it than lack of ability. (For one thing, that was the year I sat in the back of the class and couldn't see the board. I got glasses the following summer.)

A common exercise in college composition courses is to ask students, especially those who have the same kind of antagonistic relationship with writing that I've had with math, to write their "writing autobiography," which is intended to help them confront internal obstacles and events in the past that may have contributed to writer's block. So that's what I did. I was going to post it, but realized it was way too navel-gazing and whiny and would send prospective readers screaming away. The upshot is: early on, I was told I wasn't so good at math, and to save face, I decided that math wasn't important at all and concentrated entirely on English and history.

Later, in college, things got a lot more complicated. (When men are involved, they always are.)

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