Do YOU Like It?
Math wasn’t my favorite subject in school. I mean, I can add, subtract, multiply, divide and do fractions (full disclosure: When I’m ready to cut drapery fabric I mark where I’m going to cut with pins so Mike can double check the measurements BEFORE I cut the fabric.). To be clear, I don’t like math of the algebra, geometry, trigonometry varieties, never mind calculus. ‘Ometries make my brain hurt, and as hard as I worked at it, I never quite ‘got it’ in high school. <sigh>
Looking back, I see now what a wonderful math teacher Mrs. La Mastra was. And a good thing too since I had her for three years and two weeks, to be exact. An early graduate of Douglass College in New Jersey, she was patient, committed and consistent in her ability to convey how to work out the problem on the board. The problem, at least as I saw it, is that some people (that would be me) just don’t have math brains. In Algebra I held my own by working extra problems every night; I got a B in the class and was proud of it.
During my year of Geometry I had nightmares about drowning in theorems and proofs, really. My brain takes leaps of faith, and trying to make Mrs. La Mastra understand that my brain couldn’t put down all the steps in the proof because it didn’t ‘see’ all the requisite steps was frustrating for both of us; either I tried to slow my brain down to turtle speed and put way too much information on the paper or I used my regular speed brain and hopped to the end like the bunny-quick thinker I am. She would often ask the recalcitrant brain students in our class, ‘Time will pass, but will you?”
As a junior I faced Algebra II and I can assure you that I have absolutely no recollection of what I may have learned, nor the grade I received (Okay, I got a B, but the only reason I know is because I have my old report card because I’m weird that way. Oh come on, didn’t you save yours?!). I can tell you, though, that my friend Fletcher sat across from me. He always slunk into class late, buried his head in his army surplus jacket and appeared to sleep until called on for an answer. Whenever Mrs. La Mastra thought she had him (out) cold, he always sighed, straightened up a little, gave a correct answer and then sank back into his coat. I really didn’t like it that he could come up with an answer so easily when he never did his homework and he never really tried that hard and all I did was try and struggle. And boy did it tee Mrs. La Mastra off that she never did catch him with a problem he couldn’t work out.
Senior year I walked into my calculus class and guess what? Mrs. La Mastra was my teacher again. What luck, I thought. She spotted me, and I swear she paused, a long pause, before she resumed her walk to her desk. Class commenced, and two weeks later I still didn’t understand even one concept, and I was getting pretty frantic since I wanted to go to college and was afraid calculus would be the reason I didn’t get into even one.
After class one day Mrs. La Mastra watched me leave with what I thought was a more than passing interest. Sure enough, she stopped me just outside the door to her classroom.
“Do you have plans to attend college?” she asked.
Blanching, figuring I was already failing and this was her way of telling me, I replied, “Yes. Why?”
“What do you plan to major in?” Mrs. La Mastra persisted.
“English. Journalism. Something in that area,” I replied cautiously, wondering why she was asking and feeling the little ‘perks’ starting up deep in my stomach.
“Drop/add day is next week, Miss. You could drop out of calculus without any harm done, you know. I would be willing to sign the necessary form for you. As an English major you wouldn’t need the calculus on your transcript. After having you as a student for the past three years, it’s my considered opinion that you do not have a ‘math brain,’ as you like to call it. Nothing wrong with that, but perhaps you’d like to enjoy your senior year and take an additional elective instead?” she asked with a ghost of a smile flitting across her face.
I must have turned five shades of pale before assuming the hue of a Jersey tomato. “Mrs., Mrs. La Mastra. Really? Do you really think so?” I asked hopefully.
“Yes. Yes I do,” she replied as she walked brusquely back into her classroom.
As I hurried off to Guidance, I heard her ask “Time will pass, but will you?”