A doctor can tell a patient that he has cancer. And he can tell the patient what treatments are available, and how long it will possibly keep him alive. Or, he can tell the patient that he has cancer, the treatments that are available, and how aggressively they will be working together until he is fully recovered. See that difference? One is negative, and inspires little hope. The other is positive and inspires determination and lots of hope. Which would you prefer if you were getting that news? Yeah, me too. And no, I don’t have cancer. At least, not that I know of, so calm down.
I’ve been in college for the past year. And I still have a couple of semesters to go until I can get my certification and hopefully start a new career. When I first learned that I was going to need some math courses, my heart sunk. I’d rather get a root canal than try to figure out why “x” equals something that I can never ever hope to wrap my head around. That probably explains why I’ve done so poorly at it all my life. I was lucky enough that I got the basics in elementary school. I’m sure that this has saved me from getting ripped off at stores, or with street vendors. Might have even helped me figure out how to make my meager paychecks last so that I didn’t end up with “too much month left at the end of the money”. All I know for sure is that I have shied away from it my whole life. We moved out to the country when I was in the 3rd grade. And the country schools were farther along than the public schools that I attended in the city. So, both my brother and I flunked our first year there and had to repeat them. And then, we moved BACK to the city when I was fifteen years old and a freshman in high school. In a two week period, while the school tried to place me in the right math class, I went from Algebra I, to Intro to Algebra, to Fundamentals of Math all in two weeks. Needless to say, I didn’t have a clue. Couple that with the fact that I hated high school to begin with and it was a recipe for failure. All I cared about was that I was old enough to have a part time job, a car that I had paid for with babysitting money I had saved, and staying as far away from math of any kind as I could. I went to Vocational High School my junior and senior years and no math was required. Whew. I joined the Air Force shortly after graduation and moved on with my life.
Back to the present. And the presentation of the required math that I was to take. The first class was taught by a guy (with a heavy accent) who made it a point to go as fast as he possibly could to get through the material. I didn’t think I should have passed that course, but wonders of wonders……somehow, on paper he made that happen. I needed the second part of the class the next semester in order to fulfill the college requirement. The second instructor was really good. It wasn’t her fault that I just didn’t have the basics down. I tried, I really did. To the detriment of another course that I now have to retake next semester. I’d spent so much time trying to make it work that there weren’t enough hours in the day to study for the other classes I was taking and my job. The instructor told me about another class that was just being introduced that might be just what I needed. Good presentation on her part……but I was skeptical.
I can’t say enough about the instructor that I had for this new class. She made the information more than tolerable. It was interesting, fun, and RELEVANT. That was the most important to me. It needed to be something that I could use. In everyday life. Not some egghead, abstract, I’ll just be over here in the corner playing with my calculator, kind of math. I got it. And it was because of her.
I was just driving home with a stupid grin on my face, because; as I handed in my math final to the instructor, she cared enough (still) to glance over it quickly and let me know that at least I could rest assured that I had passed the course. And that’s all I wanted. To pass that class. And get the hell away from math.
But while I was grinning from ear to ear, driving home, I felt like I might not have let my instructor know how much I appreciated her. For someone that does love mathematics like she does, I’m sure it hurts a little to hear students bitch and complain about how much they hate it. And I know that I have done that. And for that, I am sorry. I can only hope that the presentation of my dislike wasn’t too terrible. One thing I DO know. HER presentation of the math that she loves shows. In the way that she breaks things down. In the way she always made herself available if we needed extra help. In the way that she makes the problems relevant to everyday life. To the joy that comes through when she hits on something that she can tell that we all enjoyed learning. Her presentation was definitely worth the price of admission. And (don’t tell anyone) I learned a lot. And although I still hate math, I hate it a little less thanks to her.