Thursday, July 24, 2008

Math = Hell

I don't get on a soapbox about a lot of things. I barely have enough energy to get through each day, let alone tackle an issue and get all ruffled over it.

The Ex used to get frustrated with me because my excuse for not educating myself in politics was that it was too overwhelming. I would rather just focus on keeping my little bubble of a life happy. Why depress myself with issues and topics I didn't feel I could do anything thing about? I just kept my head down, tried to stay under the radar and waited to die.

Not the healthiest way to live life, I know. I'm not so bleak about it anymore. Now, I vote. I read up on things. I have an opinion when the topic comes up at dinner. Rarely do I get all ruffled.

Oh, but I got ruffled this morning. Good-n-ruffled. (Ooh. My German name.)

I listen to 103.7 The Mountain every morning when I'm getting ready for work, and then on my drive. I love those guys. Marty Riemer and Jodi Brothers are like the best friends I don't have. And this morning, they mentioned that Washington state may soon require high school students to pass algebra II in order to graduate. And I immediately got a pit in my stomach. Then Jodi said exactly what I was thinking:

"I would have never graduated high school if algebra II were required back then."

Amen, Jodi. Amen.

Then Marty smarted off with EVERYONE should take algebra II and it was soooo important and girls can do math just as well as boys and then I turned off the radio. I love him death, but sometimes he gets a little opinionated.

I've written about my trouble with math a few times. It took me three semesters to pass algebra I in high school. It was brutal. Once I actually got out of algebra I, I went straight into informal geometry. Not regular geometry. But "informal".

This is a square.
This is a rectangle.
Explain the difference.

Uh......One side is longer?

Congrats, Raechelle! You've passed informal geometry!

At graduation, I stood in line with 135 other seniors, just minutes from walking across the football field to get that friggin' diploma, and watched as the principle literally pulled people out of line. They finished up our final grades THE EVENING OF GRADUATION. And if you failed, you got yanked out of line.

Scariest moment of my life.

I ended up passing with a D.

Oh, but the fun that was known as math was not over! I had to take the ACT exam - the "informal" version of the SATs.

Failed the math portion three times. THREE TIMES. Oh, I excelled in the reading and writing. I can write and babble about anything. Hence, these long, rambling posts.

But throw numbers at me with a letter here and there and I dry heave for an hour.

They finally let me enter college (bless their hearts) as long as I took pre-algebra. They were hellbent on cramming that stuff down my throat. I took this class, for six weeks during the summer, four days a week, for five hours. Algebra. Four days a week. For five hours. And by golly, I passed. No grade. Just passed. Good enough.

Okay, fall semester. My classes were algebra, psychology and ballet (needed to have so many credits to be considered "full time"). I excelled at ballet. I was first at the bar after three weeks. Psychology wasn't too bad; the teacher was enthusiastic and held my attention. I think I passed most of my tests.

Algebra? Failed.

Second semester. Algebra. Dropped out (the teacher showed up for class three out of five days).

Third semester. Algebra. Failed.

At which point I said, "Screw this."

Then came business school. No algebra. I learned how to balance a ledger, use a 10-key and type 80 words a minute. Much more my speed.

The point is, I would have never graduated if algebra II was required when I was in high school. My school (which will remain nameless since I'm about to badmouth it) had no desire to see us succeed. Our math classes were taught by the gym coaches (yes, I know some gym coaches have the smarts to teach math. Mine did not.) I remember asking Mrs. Hill if she could help me with a problem and she responded with, "Well, if you don't understand by now, you're just not getting it." My parents were never good at math, so they couldn't help me. And we couldn't afford to pay a tutor.

Now, as my disclaimer, I'm not putting 100% of the blame on my teachers. I was not a very motivated student. I did what I had to do to get out of there, and even considered dropping out my junior year and just taking the GED.

And I do remember my folks finding a tutor for me in sixth grade. Ms. Cardwell. She was very patient with me and I think I was probably making good progress. Then my brother picked me up at school one day and they started making googly eyes at each other and then they started dating and she went with us to a pool party (I remember she wore a lot of pink) and then they broke up and well, suddenly I didn't have to stay after school for tutoring anymore.

So I blame my brother, in addition to my teachers, for my math deficiency.


From what I hear, Washington thinks students should be required to pass algebra II so they can keep up with the education standards in other countries. In plain english - our kids ain't as smart as other kids. And I think that's all well and good.

Just don't suddenly force high school students to magically pass algebra II. Won't happen. They need to be prepared for it, starting in elementary school. They can't just do it on their own. Teachers have to be able to teach it to students like me who just don't get it. Parents have to have the time and money to get tutors for their kids who just don't get it.


I'm so glad I'm done with the whole high school thing. Although, if I could go back for a day, knowing what I know now......oh boy. I would be the coolest chick in school.

I'd probably still fail algebra though.


Carrie and/or Wayne said...

I just read your whole post out to Wayne. He's a math professor, but don't hate him. He loves math. I mean really, really loves it. He gets hand-flapping excited to solve math problems and do proofs and lots of other mathy stuff. I, on the other hand, could have written most of your post myself. I failed grade 11 alg 3 times. My tutor developed a crush on me and it creeped me out. I had to pass an alg entrance test for university and Wayne was my tutor - this is when we first met. (And sometimes we actually did math. :D ) I passed and thank goodness I never have to take math again! Stats yes, but I rock stats.

TD said...

Back in my college rock band days, we made a little "icon" for our drummer's bass drum. We shoved a Barbie doll down the throat of a rubber Great White shark and scrawled in black Sharpie a mockery of that ill-fated Talking Barbie comment (you remember: "Math is hard - let's go shopping!").


It was amusing back then. I think it still could be, with some beer.

Heather said...

The WASL was one of the reasons I left the US and went to teach elsewhere-that and the whole 'No Child Left Behind' bullshit.

Fact is at the end of the day who decides what the kids should know? Is it educated educators? No not really. It's politicians, and I'll bet they can't pass the 4th grade WASL much less Algebra II.

Now, I'm teaching at an international school in England that does require Algebra II to pass (at least I'm fairly certain-it's a pretty academic school), and I have parents complaining that we don't give out Headmasters List and Honour Roll awards when they are in (ready) FIFTH GRADE-that's right 10 and 11 year-olds. By the way, in my school Fifth Grade is the bottom of the Middle School and it works-just don't put unneeded pressure on them. They are still kids, dammit. Kids learn naturally by...playing and doing hands on interactive real life activities. I have parents of 'B' kids saying to me, "Do you think little Johnny needs tutoring?" Oh for F's sake.

It saddens me how the Western Culture zaps the childhood away from kids at an early age. Then, ironically, when half of us are in therapy we are told to "embrace our inner child". Gee, I wonder how we lost the chance to embrace our inner child when we were children.

Sorry for writing a blog on your comment section, but I was inspired by you after all. :)

Anonymous said...

See darling, just remember that the youth of today that is being forced to learn math will be the adults of tomorrow that will be taking care of you when you are old and senile. I hope to whatever god you pray to that they are well educated and up for the challenge.
And if you can balance a ledger you can do algebra. Geometry isnt really math, so that doesn't count.
Just think without algebra you wouldn't know the proper ratios for cleaning solvents or detergents to use. Or more importunely you wouldn't know how many people can split a bottle of wine.
Think maybe I've had it backwards this whole time, I've always been the one good at math and had to tutor the boys, but it never lead anywhere. From the sounds of it maybe I should have been the tutor-ee.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I was all ready to post some comments but you have some very passionate people commenting! ;>) I'm kinda like you with all that stuff, I don't ususally get up on a soap box either. But I do believe that our kids ARE as smart as the other kids. We just don't put the empahsis on education being cool and important like other countries - it's all the "other" stuff that our youth focus on. And we parents are part of the blame. That said - I sucked at Algebra too and am so glad I never have to do it again! However, you and I both would probably be better at it now than we were in our younger days b/c we're much smarter now!