Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Math update

I'm now about a month into my math class and I'm here to report that maybe, just maybe, I don't hate math as much as I thought I did. This is a major life breakthrough for me! I never ever thought I would change my opinion of math.

When I was growing up, I struggled in every single math class I ever took. I don't really know why, I think I just got behind somewhere and never caught up. It was embarassing for me as a kid. I was SO bad at math. I just didn't get numbers. Give me any other subject and I'm fine, but put numbers in front of me and I panic. It has been that way for as long as I can remember. I barely passed algebra in high school and in fact, I think I flunked a semester of algebra II, so when I was a senior they realized that I was one math credit short of graduation so they put me in a super dumb business math class for people who needed a math credit and can't math. We basically learned how to balance a checkbook all semester, which even I can do, and the textbook had all the answers in it, so you basically couldn't fail. That is how I got through math in high school.

When I went to college the first time, back when I was 18, I was terrified of having to take a math class. I did a year of college and purposely didn't take math because I knew I wouldn't be able to pass it. But if I had gone back for my second year, I would have had no choice but to take it. I dropped out before that happened.

All through my adult years I have avoided math whenever possible. I can balance my checkbook and take care of our finances, but beyond that, I don't math. Fortunately I married someone who is awesome at math, so on the rare occasion I have to figure out something more complicated than addition and subtraction, I make him do it for me. I feel like my fear of numbers has been this big shameful secret my whole life. I panic whenever I have to figure out a math problem. I avoid it like the plague.

So when I decided to go back to college, I knew that math was going to be my biggest hurdle. I've looked over the classes I'm going to have to take and most of them look awesome, I'm actually really excited about school. But I knew math was going to be a major problem.

I signed up for this year long reintroduction to college program mostly because the school discounts my future tuition if I take it. If I jump through their hoops for a year, I can get a big discount on my bachelors degree, which is what is making going back to college finacially feasible for me. I didn't particularly want to do this program, but it felt like the only way to make college work for me, so I decided to just tolerate it.

But it turns out that it's the best thing I could have done. The classes we have to take this year we designed to reintroduce us to school, so they start out really basic. Last semester was a little bit too basic for me and I was a little bored, but this math class is the best thing that could have happened to me. It literally started us over with elementary school math. They teach this class like you've never taken a math class in your life. Which is basically where I feel like I'm at, to be honest. We started with addition, subtraction and times tables, like 3rd graders. It's moving along pretty quickly, but it's retreaching us everything. I've spend the last two weeks learning how to work with fractions. We added, subtracted, multiplied and divided them, we reduced them, we made story problems with them, we turned them into percentages, I FINALLY, for the first time in my life, completely understand fractions. I can pass a test on fractions like a champ. It's like a miracle.

And now we've moved on to exponents and order of operations. This morning I practiced solving multi-step problems. Matthew is home sick from school today and he had to come in and help me work through a few of them when I had a question (he just has a cold, I didn't drag him in here off his deathbed or anything) , but I GET it! And not only do I get it, I almost sort of like it!! I can sit down with a worksheet full of numbers now and not panic. Sometimes I'm a little slow still, but I can actually do it! And not only that, but I'm sort of excited to see what we get to do next. Now that I get it, I want to learn more. I figured that the most I could hope for was to simply tolerate this class. I hoped I could at least pass it and just get it over with so I could move on. I didn't think there was any chance that I would actually enjoy it. But the more it goes on, the more I have to admit, I almost sort of like it! I like math? How is that possible?!

Because I have spent my entire life feeling like my fear of math was a big embarassing secret, finally learning how to do it and getting over that is a gigantic relief. You have no idea how great it feels to be doing this and actually understanding it. I realize that I'm literally bragging about knowing how to do middle school math, and I know that sounds completely ridiculous, because I'm only doing somthing that I should have already known how to do anyway, but I couldn't do it before and now I can and that is huge for me. I was convinced my entire life that I couldn't learn math and at 40 years old I have proven to myself that I can.

As far as I understand at this point, this is the only math class I will have to take to get my associates degree and for my bachelors degree the only math class I have seen on the list is a social statistics class that actually sounds sort of interesting. So I don't think I have to take much math past this class. But I am really grateful to this class for giving me the opportunity to start over and finally learn basic math. I'm confident now that by the end of this semester even algebra won't be scary to me anymore. I don't have to spend the rest of my life embarassed and avoiding math. I can actually DO it!

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