Thoughts Akimbo

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Stages of algebra acceptance

If you’ve returned to college as an adult, you can expect to go through the following stages concerning your mathematics requirement:

Denial: “What do you mean I have to take College Algebra again? What do you mean I have to start with high school algebra, because I don’t remember enough to do college algebra? This can’t be happening to me! Nooooooo …”

Anger: “Stupid requirements! Stupid school! Damn them, damn the whole math department to hell!

Bargaining: “Tell you what … I’ll take three English classes if you’ll let me get credit for one math. I’ll volunteer to teach writing to students. I’ll sweep the hallways. I’ll do … almost anything. Seriously, Mr. Department Head. Just tell me what you want.”

Depression: “This is the worst. I have forgotten how to multiply fractions. I’ll never make it through this class. I’m doomed. Doomishly doomed. I’m inventing new adjectives for how doomed I am. I want ice cream.”

Acceptance: “Well … the first class wasn’t so hard. Maybe I can pass this. And then it will be behind me. I’ll get through this. I need a beer.”

Giddiness: “I got a 98 on the first test! Ah, that was supposed to be a negative sign instead of a positive sign. But still, 98! Wait until I tell my family!

Anger Again: “Excuse me … isn’t this an example of the commutative property of addition? You marked it wrong on my test. Oh, they wanted only two letters in the answer. I see. Who are ‘they,’ anyway? (I will hunt them down and demonstrate the commutative property of their facial features).”

Remorse: “I shouldn’t have argued with my teacher. Nobody argues about math grades. Math is so … non-subjective. Now he’ll be extra hard on me. What was I thinking?”

Camraderie: “Hey, you’re in Bonehead Math? Me, too! No, just joking! I mean, it’s not a bonehead class-I’m in it, and I used to think of myself as smart! Hahaha! It’s great, huh? No, seriously, it’s terrible. I hate it so much! Hey, what’d you get for number 14?”

Jealousy:  “Yes! I got an 89! That’s pretty good. Wait! That woman over there got a 100! What the heck! She remembers every single negative sign? Who does she think she is? And her hair is better than mine, too …”

Ennui: “Math class again today. Yeah. Whatever.”

Terror: “You didn’t get my homework assignment? I swear I left it on your desk Monday, right at the end of class. Can I turn it in next week? No? (Oh, God. This is the same mistake I made in First Grade, stuffing my assignments in my desk instead of turning them in. I haven’t grown up at all!) I’m sure I turned it in. Check again, will you? Thanks. (You fault-finding bastard).”

Joy: “Mid-term report says I’m getting an A. Despite that homework debacle. An A! And I thought I might not even pass! An A! An A! A! A! A!”

Pride: “I’m good at this. I know how to factor polynomials now. I can factor the HELL out of a polynomial. I factor like the wind! Like nobody’s business! Damned right!”

Denial Again: “The train crossing is blocked? But my math final starts in 10 minutes! I can’t turn around! This can’t be happening to me! Arrghhhhh…”

Anger Again: “Don’t they know there’s a junior college on the other side of these tracks? I mean, like 10,000 students cross these tracks every day. And this stupid train isn’t even moving! Maybe if I throw a rock at it …”

Bargaining Again:  “Oh Heavenly Father … if you let me get across these train tracks within the next two minutes, so I make it to class in time for the start of the test, I promise to give up all my worldly goods and practice patience and humility. Amen.”

Redemption: “Yes! I can see the train graffiti shifting slowly to the left! If it clears the tracks within the next 30 seconds, and I drive at 55 mph the rest of the way, and run the red light and park in the handicapped spot, I will get there in time.”

Creativity: “I’m going to sharpen my pencils with my left hand while I drive with my right hand, so I’ll be ready to start calculating the minute I walk in the door.”

Acceptance Again: “OK, I finished the test. I double-checked my answers, especially those damned negative signs. Now it’s in the hands of Fate.”

Insincerity:  “Mr. Teacher? I just wanted you to know, before you grade my final, that your explanation about the point-slope intercept … truly moved me. I’m thinking of a career in mathematics now (unless I’m given the option of jabbing myself in the eye with this sharp pencil instead.)”

Closure:  “OK, I finished with a B-plus. That’s a pretty good grade for a tough class. It was a high-school level class, sure, but it was tough. For me. Because I’m an idiot. At least my long, mathematical nightmare is over. I need a beer.”

Denial: “This can’t be right! I have to take THREE more math classes to graduate?


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