First: I did not fail the test. Nope. Not a failure. Not today. Voice of reason: Although I am happy to have passed, it was a genuine surprise. So clearly I have no idea how to self-assess my abilities in this course. File that away as something to think about post-celebration.
Hot X: Algebra Exposed! By Winnie from Wonder Years.
Second: I made progress on my black-hole tendencies. I asked two questions in class, and I bought a new book. Yes, this book. Yes, the cover pumps a personality quiz and “boy-crazy confessionals.” But Winnie-from-Wonder-Years’s tone is so much more likeable than my $400 course textbook. The blurb promises that she “shows you how to ace algebra and soar to the top of your class–in style!” The pep-talk to us girls (tween or otherwise) about being able to do math is a bonus.
Third: We started graphing things this week. MY OPTIMISM IS RENEWED. I love graphing. I love graph paper. I love charts and tables. And grids. It’s the whole reason I became a girl-scout as a kid: selling cookies meant I had control over the most magnificent, color-coded spreadsheet that a 1980’s 10-year old could hope for. And when we planted a garden, we went the square-foot gardening route because it required a grid. And crossword puzzles: a favorite pass-time. So many tiny little boxes. I use graph paper all the time, but using graph paper for its intended purpose brings a special kind of joy.
Finally: I’m not funny. I know it. Last week, a stranger commented that this blog was interesting but not funny. Being interesting can be hard, so I’ll take that as a win and continue to forge ahead. Onward and upward, everyone, mechanical pencils at the ready. It’s a whole new week.
We had our first test this week. The last question was a word problem about the amount of pollution in the air based on the speed of the wind. Somehow, I ended up with a negative wind speed. Which I know is illogical and impossible (unless I completely misunderstood the LIGO announcement this week). But the math that I had worked out to arrive at the negative wind speed looked pretty much right to me. And so, knowing that my answer was absolutely wrong, I wrote it down anyway. Something is always better than nothing.
It is only this week dawning on me that I might actually fail this course, which has put me into a very fast five-stages-of-grief tailspin. At the peak of my frustration, I told a friend that I was doing everything I knew how to do, and it wasn’t enough. She said:
- “Did you visit your professor during office hours?” No.
- “Did you seek out tutoring?” No.
- “Did you find other books to explain the same problem differently?” No.
She pointed out that I was not, in fact, doing everything I knew how to do. Fellow math students have also suggested that I sit in the tutoring center while doing homework and that I ask around for links to YouTube videos of people working through the steps for given problems.
Honestly? I HATE THESE IDEAS. I believed learning math wouldn’t require as much collaboration as learning to write seems to require. And honestly, the idea of doing math in a vacuum appeals to me. I’m not sure why, when I know how powerful collaboration can be. For some reason, I want to be inside a black hole with math, where nothing IS something. Or something like that. Maybe my answer to this test question was me trying to tell myself as much. Except I don’t know enough math to have ever orchestrated the negative wind speed answer on purpose.
This week, I need to reassess my goals with this math business. If this project is going to last longer than a semester, I suppose I need a better plan. Working in a black hole, as much as I like the idea of it, isn’t going to get me very far.