The room was quite and still but I felt nauseous and overheated.
Silence crept in as the math-loving, Russian, math lady handed out our final exams. I can’t even call her a teacher because she didn’t do a very good job teaching me anything all semester. But there I sat trying to will any form of math knowledge back into my brain for one more test.
Looking over the stiff white pages it all looked like an extraterrestrial language to me. I had no comprehension of the material. Twenty-five multiple choice and five show-you-work questions made up this comprehensive final exam. Still, this was going to be no small task. After sixteen weeks of studying, homework, and extra help I felt no better than the first day I walked into this class.
Nine years removed from high school, countless major changes, and an extended period away from college – last winter I finally decided to resume classes and finish my Bachelors. However, one set of classes still remained blank on my graduation checklist. No matter which major I ended up with, I needed to get through math before getting to graduation.
Numbers are my enemy but this summer I reluctantly signed up for the first of my 3 battles: Intermediate Algebra. This class doesn’t even count towards my math requirement – it’s simply an elective to prepare me for the real thing. Intermediate Algebra is to College Algebra and Statistics as the Boston Tea Party is to the American Revolution.
I’ve got a long fight ahead of me if I am going to come out the other side victorious.
The math final laid out before me was the last test for this class, but I knew it was only the beginning of what was yet to come.
Twenty minutes had passed without me marking a single answer on the test sheet. Aside from my name it was a clean sheet of paper. I had to focus on my breathing just to make sure I didn’t puke right there. I am almost certain that wasn’t the answer the Russian lady was looking for.
Half the time I was focused on a math problem or my breathing but the other half of the time was spent feeling like a failure. Two hours were allotted for this final and I used all but five minutes or so. As I choked back my tears I circled the final answer on the test, gathered my things, and walked to the front of the classroom.
The Russian lady posted our grades online later that afternoon. I braced myself for a bad, most likely a failing grade. Can you imagine the horrors running through my thoughts when I saw a 30% listed for my final exam?
Without looking at my final cumulative grade in the class I threw in my non-existent towel. Math haunted me all my life. Even as a solid A/B student, I passed high school math by the skin of my teeth. How would I even pass two more college math classes with at least a C average so I could graduate? I was face to face with the impossible.
That moment, with anger pulsing through my body and tears rushing down my face, I gave up on school. Gave up on a Bachelors and Masters degree. I gave up on any hope of ever passing math. Math has all the power. Math is the death of my educational career.
Math has won.