Which subject in school did you find impossible to master? Did math give you hives? Did English make you scream? Do tell!

Math was incomprehensible to me, worse than science. I dropped them after both after my sophomore year. I got a C for the year in geometry, but that was a struggle. I knew that colleges would want to see more math and science on applications, but I also knew if I did another math course it would end in disaster (grade-wise) and lower my grade-point average. No respectable high school student wants that to happen if they’re considering college! So I stopped taking science and math in 10th grade and concentrated on the things I did well, and extra-curricular activities like newspaper and yearbook and a couple of clubs. In the end it was fine; I did indeed keep my grade point average up and had no trouble getting into the colleges I wanted to attend.

Today, I think it would be a different story. With the emphasis on math, science and technology these days (we didn’t have any technology in 1961-1965), I think colleges would immediately notice my deficits. In fact, I doubt if I could graduate from high school!

What’s rather sad, I think, is like many other children/teens, I had developed a fear of math that I couldn’t break down with reason. I attended a university in Scotland where, if you were a Faculty of Arts student, you didn’t have to take any math or science. Fine by me. I had not escaped as easily as I thought, though. When I returned to college at about age 40 to do an M.Ed., they noticed the paucity of my science and math knowledge, and in order to be in the program, I had to take undergraduate classes in those areas. I did those at the local community college. The instructors were excellent, and I was older and wiser. I had decided that there was no logical reason I couldn’t understand math, especially if I tried hard enough. I took two classes and awed both of them, and gained a new respect for the subject area, even though I will never be a mathematician. Biology was my choice for my science requirement, and while I thought it would be easier than chemistry or physics, and I also thought it more useful for teaching elementary aged children. To add insult to injury, I also had to take two economics classes, and Health/PE, too!

To avoid the situation I tried to make my fourth grade student enjoy math, and for the most part they did, but one or two couldn’t shake the “I can’t do math” syndrome. Surprisingly, I found that it really was harder for some students “get it”. Basically I think attitude is everything. If students think they can do it, they’ll exceed expectations.