Sunday, November 20, 2005

I'm still wearing the frilly red dress

My score on this silly little online test proves it: I'm not quite as stupid as previously thought!
You Passed 8th Grade Math

Congratulations, you got 7/10 correct!

Still stupid, yes, but stupid on at LEAST an 8th grade level! This is way better than my previous belief that I was stupid on a 3rd grade level.

I've told you before (pay attention, people) that I'm beyond dumb at math. I'm dumb squared, in fact. I count with my fingers to add. Often, when presented with a simple math problem, I cock my head to the side like a Labrador puppy and go all glassy-eyed. I get that Anna Nicole look, without the inconvenience of porn star-sized boobs getting in the way.

On every standardized math test I've ever taken, I have answered the first few questions diligently and thoughtfully, and then as the questions went on, I would eventually reach a point (often around question #10) where I would surrender, and just begin putting down C for all my answers. I tended to do well enough in the other areas that it all worked out without my having to attend classes in the special ed trailer. (I still went there looking for dates, but didn't have to stay.)

Upon entering college, I was informed that my unspectacular performance on the math portion of the entrance test doomed me to having to take Basic Math, a class that the gifted--and even the merely normal--kids didn't have to take. As it turned out, I loved my teacher in that class, Professor Gann. He was one of the few instructors I'd ever had in that subject who had a way of explaining that weirdo math stuff so that I sometimes got it. I managed to maintain an unimpressive-but-passing C in that class all semester. On the day of the last class before our final exam, Gann gave the standard speech about how there would be no makeup for the final--you had to be there for that test, no excuses, and if you didn't make it, you would have no opportunity to retake the test. You'd get a zero for the final, and the average of that score and the scores you had gotten on the other tests and assignments throughout the semester would result in your final grade (with the final weighing heavier, naturally). If you had a high enough grade prior to the final exam, missing that final exam might not cause you to fail...but if you had a C like I did, you better be there, or you were screwed.

I woke up the morning of my math final convinced that I'd flunk the test...and why go through the humiliation? I made a spur-of-the-moment decision not to bother. I skipped the final and my roommate and I went shopping. And I failed the class, of course. But I got some really, really cute shoes at the mall.

So I had to retake Basic Math. I chose the same instructor. When he spotted me in class, he shook his head and admonished me for not attending the final last semester. Clearly, the guy thought I was nuts. "You had a C! You would have passed if you'd just come to the final!" I gave him a slack-jawed "I ain't too bright" grin and mumbled something incoherent.

You'd think perhaps I'd do better in the class the second time around, since we would just be going over the same material as last semester. But I have never actually "learned" anything that has to do with math. I have memorized a few things--for instance, I have memorized the answer to 6 x 8...but I've been resolute in my determination not to actually learn anything in any math class. Since I have an incredibly short memory, and since I have a cruise ship-sized mental block regarding math, I had taken a moment at the end of the previous semester to shake my head like an Etch-A-Sketch and empty it of whatever math principles might be cluttering up the space I normally reserve for memorizing song lyrics, and poof: The Basic Math stuff was gone. So in semester #2 of Professor Gann's class, I maintained my same old C average. And when finals time rolled around, I again woke up convinced I'd flunk.

Now I know what you're thinking--no way would I skip the final a second time. That would be so incredibly stupid, so self defeating. Who would sit through a hated class twice, only to force failure both times? Me, apparently. I skipped the final.

The next day I was surprised to get a phone call from Professor Gann. He told me there was no way he was letting me get away with skipping the final two semesters in a row after maintaining a passing grade both semesters up til finals time. He said I'd better get my ass to his office that afternoon and take the damn final. So I went, marveling all the while at the fact that he was breaking his sworn promise not to let anyone retake the final for any reason. I sat at a lone little desk right outside his office door and took the test, while he sat at his desk two feet away, probably asking himself over and over, "What is wrong with this jackass?" When I finished the test, he made me wait while he graded it on the spot. I got a C. He rolled his eyes at me and said, "See? You passed. You would have passed it last semester. Stop skipping finals." I gave him a slack-jawed grin and mumbled something incoherent.

Poor Professor Gann. I'm sure any teacher would tell you there's something incredibly satisfying about finally "getting through" to a student who was previously having a hard time learning something. I imagine teachers live for those really rewarding moments when they can sort of see a light bulb go off over a kid's head as he or she suddenly understands and maybe even begins to enjoy the subject. A giant dum-dum like me makes it hard for a teacher to feel good about his teaching abilities, and poor Professor Gann must have had a moment or two when he wondered why the hell he bothered working so hard to teach something that some students work so hard at not learning. Hopefully he had lots of rewarding moments with smarter, more eager students than myself, and hopefully those rewarding moments made up for the times he had really thick-skulled morons in his class who seemed to be intentionally dumbing the place up.

My apologies to you, Professor Gann. The light bulb never went off for me, and I never got any smarter or enjoyed the subject any more. But you were a great teacher. If there's a lesson to be learned here, it's that you can put a frilly red dress on a hog, but you can't teach the hog to flamenco dance.


Paul Michael Peters said...

There is no greater sense of connection than the one I feel for others who fail at math. For years it was a torture I struggled through and finally gave up on. In 1990 rules changed that affected the course structure of colleges and universities in Michigan, and for that matter may have been a national standard. It included the policy of an entrance exam and skills courses.

Thank the Lord I started in 1989. I would never have graduated if I had to take another math class. It is the only thing that keeps me from a masters.

Happy Thanksgiving


Crazy MomCat said...

I hated math so much. I had such a brain-block about it and it is the only class I had to retake in college.

So, thank you for sending that. I now know I could get my kid at least through 8th grade math with a passing grade! I got 7 of 10 as well!

Ivy the Goober said...

I dislike math so much, that I'm not even going to take your silly little old test. Even if I might get 8 out of 10. Which would mean I was 55% correct, right?

gina said...

i got the same 7/10. i hated math till i got to statistics in college, then i kicked butt!

poor mr. gann indeed. lol. why dontcha send him a christmas card?

CommonWombat said...

So much for our plans to take over the world... I wish you'd mentioned the fact that you were stupid BEFORE I'd purchased all those small arms and had our flag sewn onto all those uniforms.

karla said...

Hey Wombat, if you couldn't figure out I was stupid the night we had dinner, I don't know what to tell you. I held the camera up in front of us and snapped a picture, then realized I was holding the camera BACKWARDS.

But don't despair, we can always figure out a use for the guns. You can never have too many murder weapons, my grandma used to say.

Mighty Dyckerson said...

It's OK, Karla. I'd nail you despite your poor math skills.

Sadi said...

Geez, all I did was follow your link from another blog, I didn't know I would be tested. Honestly I haven't read a thing, but I did get a 7/10 on the 8th grade math. The whole time I kept thinking, "thank GOD I passed math in college!!" lol

tfg said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
tfg said...

Hey Karla. Why don't you make me a loan for $1000? We'll use a 1 year term with a 10% interest rate. Thus, at this time next year, I'll repay the principal and interest, which will be $1.47. You won't find a better investment than this. Just do the math.

Christi said...

Wow, I got 9/10! Hooray! I thought I sucked at math, too. We're not as bad off as we thought!

Anonymous said...

it all depends on your interpretation of flemenco dancing. If your interpretation involves rolling around in mud while squeeling (see, sounds fun doesnt it?) then indeed mayhaps that red dressed hog is in fact the instructor you've always looked for.

There are few things in life more important then a chilled out drink on your patio late in the afteroon, one of them is making sure you don't step on a landmine. :)

jules said...

Loved the etch-a-sketch analogy. I might just have to steal that one!

Anonymous said...

Oh karla! You are awesome for admitting you use your fingers to count on. That makes me feel...giddy almost because I SUCK at adding and subtracting and use my fingers too. The funny thing is, I was in grad school for experiemntal psych, which is heavily statistics-based. How I managed to gets A's in stats, working two-page long equations yet cannot recall on the spot what 7 + 5 is really, really stupifies me.

Kiki said...

I suck at Math as well. It's good to know that you do too. (?) I took the test and passed 8/10. I couldn't believe it!! I guessed on a bunch of them!

Anonymous said...

Well, I have to say, I hated Math too, in fact, I can't believe that I actually did the test, never mind what my score was.
But thought I'd share my results!

***You Passed 8th Grade Math***

Congratulations, you got 10/10 correct!

Not bad for a blonde eh!