Monday, January 12, 2009

There's been a change in the program.

Seriously. It was bitterly cold last week, busy at work, classes started...somehow, that doesn't seem enough of an excuse not to post here, but I'm back now.

On Friday, January 9, I went in and took my placement exam in the Administration wing. For about fifteen minutes before the test, I was the oldest person there...until a woman in her sixties huffed up, arms filled with math review books, and announced that she was there for her "re-assessment."

We had to put all our belongings in lockers--everything. I'd brought along a pad of paper to do scratch figuring on, and several pencils, but I wasn't allowed to bring them in--everything would be supplied, including a graphing calculator, which I actually used once or twice.

This exam was, in fact, multiple choice. But that didn't matter so much, as I did a lot of figuring and came up with the right numbers. There were a few problems for which I simply eyeballed things and didn't bother working them out, but somehow I don't feel bad about that at all, not since I discovered that there's a lot of eyeballing that goes on in mathematics. The exam began with geometry and moved through algebra and pre-calculus into trigonometry. By the time I got to trigonometry I was kicking myself for not having reviewed the stuff I'd learned in tenth-grade physics, because if I'd remembered most of it I would have done better on that section. I seemed to recall that trigonometry was actually pretty easy.

I wasn't nervous or anxious at all. At some point--about an hour and a half in--I started to get bored, hoping the exam wouldn't last much longer. And the woman I'd seen coming in earlier was a terrible distraction. She had a hacking cough and kept leaving the room for various reasons, and from the corner of my eye I could see that she was stuck on the same geometry problem long after I'd moved on to algebra.

What made me proudest was being able to figure out simple functions. I'd never seen functions before--or if I did, I didn't remember them--and it probably took me three times as long to solve those problems as it did the students who'd just graduated from high school a year ago--but I figured out that all they were, really, were nested equations.

After a poor showing in trigonometry, where I just simply started guessing at random, the test ended (probably because I was doing so badly) and I went up to get my score. The woman behind the desk took the paper from the printer, highlighted something, and handed it to me. "That's the class you can start with," she said. I looked at it. I'd tested out of College Algebra. The class I would begin with would be trigonometry. Hot damn!

So that has changed my plans for the next semester. Now that I've got documented proof that I've tested out of algebra, I could take beginning programming and the introductory Linux course in addition to the basic hardware/OS course that meets at Parkland on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I will be taking trigonometry in the near future, but I need to get these courses out of the way fast. And I'm rejoicing, because it brings me that much closer to where I want to be.

After trigonometry, which I've no doubt I'll pass with flying colors? The big, bad C-word, of course. Oh, yes. Bring it on.

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