I will never understand people like my Uncle Bruce or Burt. How can anyone thrive on math? I mean, some people really enjoy it. I am not sure I ever will. When my Uncle Bruce was tutoring me in math, he said that he would teach me to love math.
He failed. I don't love math. But I suppose it isn't too horrible, either. That's an improvement.
I'm now tutoring Josie in math. Who, besides Ms. Horton, would ever have believed that I would tutor anyone in math?
Ms. Horton is famous in my books for saying one of the funniest things about math I've ever heard. I suppose I was kind of her "teacher's pet" simply because I am a perfectionist and so, although I don't feel I am very talented in mathematics, I usually got the best grade in the class because I worked hard. I found it rather humorous that she nominated me to be "student of the week" for the math department two times in one semester. I found it more humorous the day she said to me,
"You love math, I can tell."
"I don't love math," I told her.
"But you always do so well..." Then she tried to convince me that becoming a math teacher was my calling in life.
It's not my calling in life, I assure you. I dropped her class at the end of that semester and picked up an art class. I really am not very good at math and so I have to work really hard at it. This would be more enjoyable if it was something that was actually entertaining, like dancing. I'm not a very talented dancer either, but at least I enjoy practicing it. When's the last time anyone's ever said, "Hey, let's go do some crazy math problems tonight!" I've never heard that, but I have heard, "Let's go dancing tonight!" Thus we see that dancing is more enjoyable for me than math. Learning foreign languages and going through labor are also quite intensive, but I enjoy them both more than doing math.
"You are good at math," Andrew told me when I told him that story.
"Not really," I said, "I have to work really hard at it and it isn't fun. I am much better at writing than I am at math."
"And that's why we don't have a math blog," quipped Andrew.
When I was in grade 9, I took math through the ADLC (Alberta Distance Learning Center). I was struggling at first because I'm not very good at math, but I am a perfectionist so with a little tutoring from David and some long hours put into my math problems my grades started to improve. Toward the end of the school year, I was getting 100% on nearly every assignment, a marked improvement compared with the 60-80% I had been getting at the beginning of the year.
One day I got a letter from my teacher written furiously at the top of one of my assignments:
Your answers are looking more and more like the answers in the back of the book. I hope you are not cheating because exams, and life, will demand it.
I was utterly offended. I was working so hard to solve each problem and when I started to get them right my teacher accused me of cheating. I suppose it was too difficult for him to put A and B together to come to the conclusion that my answers were looking more and more like the ones in the back of the book because I was getting more and more of them right on a more consistent basis.
Luckily we have to take provincial exams every three years in Alberta and grade 9 was one of those years. I scored in the top 10% on the math exam. So I proved "it" on the exam and now I guess I'm proving it in life because, frankly, I used algebra and the order of operations more today as I helped Josie than I have since I took that exam.
She's a handful. She really knows her stuff when she's in a good mood, but once her mood slips (and slip it will since she's thirteen) she starts getting a little mouthy.
"Alright, what's 7 x 3?" I quiz her, as this is the next step in the problem.
"37," she answers snappily.
"Uh, no, it's actually not."
And that is how it took us about five hours to go through twelve pages of math. That's about the average amount of time I spent doing my college algebra homework everyday (with the good graces of the teacher, I pulled through that class). Josie and I both lost our tempers after a while and so took a break. We had lunch, I showered, Josie played with the baby and then we hit the books again. Remarkably enough, Josie made an amazing recovery and remembered how to do math. She got a 94% on her first assignment.
"I hate math," she kept telling me and I had to resist using the phrase Mrs. Weston used every time someone in my geometry class cursed math that way,
"Well, maybe it's not too fond of you, either."