So, as you may have gathered, I went back to college a couple of years ago to get a teaching degree.
I know, imagine. All this excitement coming soon to a classroom near you.
But although I had most of my core classes out of the way, glaring at me on the schedule was College Algebra.
Now, I don’t have the “Math is Hard” Barbie. I did just fine in math in high school, liked it even, and in fact, did well enough on the SAT that for the liberal arts degree I was pursuing at the time, my math requirements were waived.
But, if you’re going to get a teaching degree in Texas, you need to actually take College Algebra. Not wave around some SAT scores from the Paleontologic era, and charm everyone with your brilliance.
I thought about taking a CLEP test, but a glance at the practice materials sent me head on into the cold reality that higher math is not like riding a bike. You cannot just hop back on after 25 years and pedal your way through quadratic equations, No sir. My parabolas are not as perky as they used to be.
I was whining about the class with my lovely friend Donna, and she offered the helpful advice that I should solve all problems with X = chocolate cake.
Donna has a liberal arts degree too, apparently.
So, I tried to pay attention to the instructor instead. Which was sobering. The first night she painted such a dire picture of our chances of passing the class that approximately three-quarters of the students dropped.
I wasn’t worried about not passing, but I wanted an A. So I did homework until my fingers calloused. I spent 5 hours at a time working mammoth exam reviews so I could get 5 bonus points on the tests. When the instructor said we could get 5 extra points for singing the quadratic formula, I offered to pole dance for 10 (Offer politely declined).
Still, come test time, I would annoy the very precise instructor by not showing my work in a manner befitting a serious student of math.
Exams, even ones I scored well on, would come back with more ink than Jesse James’ skanky girlfriend.
On one, she had corrected the same form issue on numerous problems, each mark getting bigger until, when I turned to the last page of my test, I saw this:
Yes! “Not appropriate” “BS!” Underlined two very angry times! I was mortified. And shocked.
I go to the University of the Incarnate Word. And in case you’re not fluent in Catholic, the Incarnate Word refers to Jesus. And at the University of Jesus, it is just not common to get back papers with “BS” scrawled on them.
Even though my philosophy professor would have probably been justified a few times.
And “not appropriate?” I frantically checked back to make sure I hadn’t mistakenly spelled something nasty, or plotted parabolas reflecting over the X axis that looked just a little too voluptuous (If you are also a liberal arts major, look that math reference up. It’s funny.).
But mostly, I just stared at my paper wondering if I’d even be allowed back in class after offering up inappropriate BS on my exam.
While I stared, the instructor had gone on to another chapter, and the class was quietly scribbling notes when it hit me. She meant I needed to write the computations on both sides of the equation. BS = Both Sides. I started to laugh.
I explained my confusion to the teacher. And to her credit, she laughed, too. Oh did she laugh. Not enough to give me back some points, but you know, that’s ok. Turns out, even at 42, I can ace a college algebra class. BS and all.