Tuesday's entry in the list of
Random Things I'm Grateful For (see two posts down for a complete
explanation) is... "Something that gives me trouble." Yeah, I skipped a couple of weeks between Monday and Tuesday... it was the end of the school year, so everything else was really hectic!

Anyway, the thing that has always given me trouble is math. Math and I, traditionally, have not been what you'd call friends. It's never come easily to me. It was a tough subject for me to grasp in school. In retrospect, I thought I was worse in math than I actually was -- I was always taking an advanced math course, but I always felt like I caught on slower than everyone else in those classes. I was not used to struggling in school, and it made me feel like I was a failure at math.

Feeling like I was doing poorly at math made me have very little interest in it. I coped with my math insecurities by acting like I didn't care, and by not paying attention. I remember spending a lot of time in 8th and 9th grade math writing notes, giggling with my friends in the back of the room, and braiding one another's hair. My sophomore year of high school, I took a non-accelerated track for Geometry, and it was the first year that I got straight A's in math. I had a fantastic teacher who really tried to make math fun and interesting, and it helped that Geometry is more visual and spatial than other kinds of math. I could see a practical use for Geometry. With the exception of Geometry, I felt like this about math.

However, because I did so well at it, my Geometry teacher recommended me for the accelerated trigonometry class the following year. I argued with him, saying I wanted to stay in the regular track, and he argued back, refusing to sign my course selection form if I took the regular track for trig. While I appreciated his confidence in me, I knew that trig would be a struggle again. By my junior year, I had learned that the more activities I was involved in at school, the more math classes I could get out of. So I scheduled my band lessons, yearbook photo shoots, and everything I could during my math period. My senior year I had math during 1st period, and I came in to school late often enough that I was rarely in class.

When I went to college, I majored in Spanish, and never had to take a math class, which was exactly what I hoped for! Until I began working on my teaching certificate, and realized that although there was no university requirement for math, there was a state requirement for teachers to have a certain number of college math credits. This is how I recently ended up taking College Algebra. I dreaded the course, and I was terrified that I would do poorly again. However, one major thing was different -- I was more than a decade out of high school. I had spent years in college reading the textbook, attending class, studying on my own time, and getting help from professors when it was needed. I knew that homework and studying were necessary for success. In short, I was developmentally ready to succeed in math. Even though it is something that doesn't come naturally to me, I felt confident that I could make up for my lack of ability with hard work.

And work hard I did. I spent hours on my math homework rather than giving up on it, which was my modus operandi in high school. I focused during class. I took notes. I studied. For math! And I got the highest score in my class on the first exam of the semester. I was ecstatic! It was exactly what I needed to keep me motivated for the rest of the semester. When the course was over, and I opened up my grade report and saw that big "A" on the page, I felt like I had just won the lottery.

You don't get a lot of second chances in life. Even though I was bitter about having to do it at first, I am thankful that I got a second chance with math. I proved myself to myself, and it was a great experience. Math is still not second nature for me, but I know that I am capable of the challenge it presents.

I'm even more grateful that there ARE people for whom math comes naturally! Thanks, math whizzes of the
world, for doing my taxes, developing the algorithm that allows me to
Google anything I want in less than a second, figuring out the ratio of detergent to water needed to do my laundry, determining how to build furniture, buildings, elevators, cars, and planes that will be strong and safe... I'm so glad that there are people willing to take on the complex math problems that make life easier so that I don't have to!

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