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Math: Ba-Humbug!

(A little commentary I wrote about math. Take this tongue in cheek!)

I don’t like math. I haven’t liked it for as long as I can remember but my mother said there was a time that I did like it and was good at it. Whatever. If it was so long ago that I can’t remember that I was once good, then it won’t help my self-esteem in the moment at hand.

There isn’t anything logical about math. Why anyone would want to spend their time doing something as illogical as math is beyond me, but hey, if it’s your cup of tea then have at it. Just don’t come near me with it. I remember distinctly my first day of algebra class. The teacher wrote on the board 2 + x = 4 then asked everyone, collectively, what’s x? I thought, what kind of question is that? X is x. There. There’s your answer. No one in the class answered so she rephrased the question and said, find x. I wondered what kind of joke she was trying to pull. Find x? X is right there. Can’t she see it? Sure she can see it, I mean, she wrote it so she should know where she put it. Did this teacher go to school?

Truly, the first day of algebra class is etched in my memory and will be there forever. It was a bad day. Sometimes, I hear people muse about a particularly good day and how they wish they could relive that day. Well, I do not ever, in my entire life want to relive the first day of algebra class. As a matter of fact, just thinking about it (so I can tell you this story) is irritating me.

“Kathy, if I told you to find x, what would you do?” Ms. Everette, the algebra teacher, asked.

Wait, did I just hear my name? Yes, I believe I did. Sometimes I zone out but when someone calls my name it sounds kind of sharp and startles me back into reality. I don’t know why she picked me though. I’m sitting here looking just as indifferent as everyone else. Perhaps I should assess the look on everyone else’s face and see if they are looking more indifferent than me. If so, I must quickly make my expression match theirs. If you happen to look too interested, it might make the teacher call on you and that’s bad when you don’t know the answer to the question.

“Well, I’m not sure. It depends on the situation, but right now, I happen to see it’s in between the plus sign and the equals sign. So, it really isn’t lost and you can’t find something that isn’t lost.” I reply.

The class erupts into laughter and I am not sure why. She asked me a question and I answered her. What’s so funny? What she wrote on the board is illogical and it won’t work. What is it that I’m supposed to say?

“Don’t be a smart aleck. How would you find x?” She asks again.

Good God. I wasn’t being a smart aleck but if I tell her that I wasn’t being a smart aleck, that will sound smart aleckie and that would be bad. What’s on the board doesn’t make sense and what she’s asking doesn’t make sense. She wanted to know where x is and I told her. I must think a little deeper about this. We’re in math class and that’s some sort of equation on the board. Okay, I got that much. The equation cannot be completed because apples and oranges don’t mix. See, I learned that last year in math when all year long we did those nonsensical word problems and Mr. Randy kept saying that apples and oranges don’t mix. See, Mr. Randy went to school to learn that and he passed it onto me so here goes, “Well, see, apples and oranges don’t mix so I don’t know how to do what you’ve written on the board.”

The class again erupts into laughter. And again, I’m not sure why. She’s asking me questions and I’m answering her.

“Right, apples and oranges don’t mix and the equation is legitimate, so what would you do with it?”

“Nothing. I wouldn’t do anything with it, I’d leave it right there.”

More laughter and Ms. Everette says, “You’re being a smart aleck.”

I am not! What she’s asking doesn’t make sense! Last year, I did not enjoy math class because every time I turned around we had to do more of those hateful word problems. I was truly hoping this year we could get back to doing the kind of math that makes sense. I see we are not. Oh wait, perhaps this is just an isolated lesson. Tomorrow’s lesson we’ll get away from trying to combine math and English. See there you go, you can’t combine apples and oranges. If the teacher I had last year went to college to learn this, you’d certainly think that Ms. Everette had also learned it in college. I mean, they have the same degree! Forever, we’ve had math, the subject that works with numbers, and we’ve had English, the subject that works with letters. This is math class, hence, the x on that chalk board is in the wrong subject. Good God, somebody, take that x back to Ms. Christian’s class, she’s apparently lost it. She’ll never think to look for it in Ms. Everette’s class. If I were not so worn out from trying to answer this lady’s questions, I’d volunteer to take the letter back to Ms. Christian. Teach is going to have to appoint somebody else to go that. Share the love. I’m just about done with this mess.

I look at my watch and see that only 10 minutes has passed in this period. Damn, it’s going to be a long 40 minutes until lunch. Wonder what we’re having today? I don’t know why I wonder because no matter what the cafeteria ladies fix, it’s always awful. I suppose the best question to wonder is what’s the color of the entre they’re cooking? Red? Green? Maybe white. It could have mozzarella on top which would mean it’s probably pizza and pizza is good. Let’s hope for white food.

And then, for no apparent reason except that my reverie is boring me, I zone back into the lesson and realize that Ms. Everette has put Donna in the hot seat. Good. Make her squirm. I don’t like her anyway. Donna is one of those girls that will tell you something really ugly and hateful then laugh and tell you she didn’t mean it because she was only joking. I don’t know who she thinks she’s fooling because everybody is onto her game.

Dag on, would you look at that. Teach has managed to move that x from the left side of the equal sign to the right side. Why would you do that? It doesn’t matter where the x is, it’s still a problem because, hello – THIS IS MATH CLASS! I can just image Ms. Christian down the hallway worrying herself to death because she can’t find her x. Give her dag on x back! This afternoon, when I get to English class, I’m gonna tell Ms. Christian that Ms. Everette has her missing letter and we’re gonna come down here and steal it back. Then, tomorrow, I won’t be aggravated by any more letters in math class.

I’ve always looked at concepts and tests like this: if there are 10 concepts you supposedly learn for the upcoming test, it is okay to forfeit one or two of those concepts for the sake of sanity. You’ll have to make sure to have the other concepts down pat because every single one of those answers (on the test) will have to be correct in order to counter weigh the questions you know you’ll get wrong. If, at least, I make an 80 on the test, I’ll be okay. My parents don’t institute ramifications unless the grade is below 80. I can swing an 80. The only other question is, what other concepts will be on the test? Obviously, I don’t know but none of them can be as crazy as this performing math on a letter concept! Forget this mess!

So, can you imagine my horror the next day in algebra when Ms. Everette pulled a y out of her arsenal! She mentioned that these letters are variables. Well, no kidding! She’s varying the letters in the alphabet so I guess you could call them variables. No, it wouldn’t be plural because we’re only using one at a time so it would be a variable, not variables.

By the end of the first week of algebra, I realized many things. First, this isn’t math. It’s some new hybrid that doesn’t have a name. Maybe I could name it maEng or Engma? I don’t know. Neither really has a ring to it. I’ll have to think more on that during my next day dream. Second, I’m in deep trouble on the upcoming test. Every single day we’ve supposedly learned some of this nonsensical mess that I can’t wrap my mind around. I have no idea how many more of these concepts we’ll learn before teach finally goes back to teaching math with numbers. Hopefully, this is a unit and we’ll do this whole unit then take the test. That way, I’ll only bomb one test, can suck up the ramifications, then move onto happier times. I told my grandmother about this algebra crap (of course, I didn’t say crap to her) last night and she said my uncle couldn’t ever catch onto this mess either. Obviously, my uncle has as much sense as me since he can see this stuff is irrational. Can you imagine, what nut sat around and thought up integrating letters and numbers? The guy has way too much time on his hands and someone needs to help him find a proper hobby. The third thing I have realized is that not all aspiring teachers learn the same concepts in college. APPLES AND ORANGES DO NOT MIX, PEOPLE. Perhaps I’ll slide an anonymous note underneath Mr. Randy’s door and tell him that Ms. Everette never learned that apples and orange don’t mix and would he please be so kind to inform her of this fact.

After my introductory week struggling with this crazy hybrid math, I went home and told mama to get me out of that class. I also mentioned that making an 80 or better on an algebra test was impossible and for she and daddy not to expect much. She laughed like I was being so funny. Why is it that sometimes people will laugh like I’m being funny when I didn’t say anything funny? Not one thing I said was funny and my expression should have indicated as much. Perhaps my mama needs some help interpreting body language. I know one thing, I’m in some deep sh** ……….oh sorry, I mean crap.

I do remember one more day quite clearly that happened the same year I took algebra. I was in algebra class, and struggling with another lesson that defeated me in the first two minutes of lecture. I purposefully took the attitude (yet again) that it’s okay not to learn this lesson because I couldn’t possibly need this stuff after I fail the next test. I was day dreaming about shooting poisonous darts at Ms. Everette because she was a hoo-dooer of children. Mr. Randy never informed Ms. Everette that apples and oranges don’t mix so we were stuck in hybrid math purgatory until the end of the year when we could hopefully get back to math with numbers. That afternoon in English class, Ms. Christian said something to me (and what she said was unimportant and I really don’t remember it anyway because the next words out of her mouth blocked my mind from all reason) bla, bla, bla, two plus two equals four. So my face transformed from deadpan, unresponsive, bump on a log to fire and brimstone primitive Baptist preacher in a pulpit. In the middle of her spill, I held up my hand indicating STOP and I told her I had already been to math class that day and I didn’t plan on going back! Then, I told her that it wasn’t fair how Ms. Everette brought letters into the world of math and for her to please keep numbers out of English. I remember that she replied by asking if I knew that two plus two equals four and I said yes, then she told me that’s as much as I’d need to know about numbers in English and to please try and keep my cool. She mentioned something about an analogy but I can’t remember exactly because the adrenaline coursing through my veins was making me not process too well. After about 15 minutes, Ms. Christian hadn’t mentioned any more numbers so I calmed down and settled back into deadpan, unresponsive, bump on a log mode. But hey, one thing I taught Ms. Christian that day was that even though I’m choosing to indicate that I’m a vacant shell, I’m not and my ears are still working. I’ll bet she thought, when in doubt if Kathy is still alive, throw some numbers at her and see what happens. It’s kind of like dousing a demon with holy water.

For the record, the next year, math didn’t get any better. I was introduced to geometry and in two shakes of a stick I was begging mama to let me go back to the class where you can do math with letters. Proofs and theorems were proving not to be my thing (and that was putting it mildly). That’s the year I completely gave up on math. I decided the entire mathematical establishment had gone completely insane and they were not worthy of my time.

So, for a couple of decades, I’d flat tell you from the get go, I don’t do math. Kindly keep it away from me and all will remain peaceful. See, I don’t like it when somebody hoo-dooes me, like teaching one thing then pulling the rug out from underneath me as I’m right at the precipice of mastering a concept. I had just sort of gotten used to word problems and, all of a sudden, was abruptly thrust into finding letters. Then, we did another flip-flop and left finding numbers to proving the rationale behind sentences. Sheez! Give me a break!




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2 thoughts on “Math: Ba-Humbug!

  1. Reblogged this on Saving school math and commented:
    And I’m sure she’s not the only one !

  2. I love this! Every math teacher should read it.

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