Dec 13, 2010

Math is Hard

By Stacy Johnson

When I was in college the first time, I took the placement test for math.  I didn't pass any of it.  The dumb thing is that I passed math in high school (by the skin of my nose apparently.)  I had to take those "don't count for anything classes" like 055 and 077, the kind where you have to learn to add, multiply and use fractions.  I'm not even joking you.  I felt like an idiot...but I digress. I finally took my first 100 level class just before my then boyfriend got home from his mission.  Shortly after we married, we signed up to take my second to last math class together.  I thought I was going to breeze through that class.
We had to do lots of homework assignments a number of quizzes and a few tests.  I got 100% on every homework assignment not because it was easy, but because I worked my butt off knowing I'd really need the points  in the end. When it came to test time, I rarely did as well as I thought I would and I was grateful for a little breathing room those points allowed me.  My husband, on the other hand, rarely did his homework, but always seemed to be able to breeze through the tests with at least a high C or B.  So, when it came time to take the final, I figured out what each of us needed to get on the test in order to get an A in the class.  My hard work and effort paid off and all I needed was some lousy number like 50% in order to maintain my A in the class.  Ben, on the other hand, needed to get some outrageous (seemingly unreachable) grade of 99% in order to raise his B to an A.

I got a B and he got an A.  

I never took another math class after that...

until now.

Over 20 years later and here I am, finally taking that last math class...

College Algebra Math 142
Can you sense the drama?

I have been going to ASU for almost 3 years now and I am just now taking my last math class, the one I need to graduate.  And you know what?  It isn't as hard as I remember.  Why is that?  I've decided that my life experiences have showed me that some of the equations we used in algebra really have value in the real world.  I have used math without even knowing I was doing it all these years.  I don't know what I was so afraid of.  I understand most everything, now that I have some life experience behind me.  Maybe it is my teacher, maybe it is my maturity (joking), or maybe all those math lessons in high school really paid off and I really did know that stuff, just didn't know how to apply it...until now.  

Now I feel qualified to tell you about your potential rate of return on investments (without providing any advice on that subject), I can tell you how they measure the amount of energy created (joules) in an earthquakes of different magnitudes, and I can tell you what the H+ measurement is if I know the pH level (I also learned that water is neutral, neither acidic or a base).  I can tell you lots of things about APR, tax rates, and can now use Excel for basic statistical analysis, among other things.  And, I can tell you what I need to get on the test tomorrow in order for me to get an A in the class.  Even though I studied my heart out, I will most likely settle for a B, but that's ok with me.  
My oldest son took the same class last semester and got a C. *wink*
Wish me luck.


  1. Math. Cringe. Congratulations on having the courage to take math--again. Math makes my brain hurt.

  2. I had the same odd experience. I had to take a higher math course to get a teaching certificate in VA (apparently my AL one wasn't good enough for them). And I got it. Maybe it's a matter of maturity? Good luck.

  3. Good for you Stacy! I agree that life experience teaches us a great deal! Keep up the great work!

  4. Good luck. Maybe you can help me when my time comes because to graduate I'm going to have to take math too.

  5. I'll have to share this post with my daughter, now a Junior at BYU. She just completed a math course that affirmed to her, once again, that she is a math dummy (at least, that is what she says). Your experience may give her hope!


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