Hello. My name is Pam, and I’m scared of math.
Well, not exactly scared. More like intimidated. I’m intimidated by math.
But math didn’t always intimidate me. I used to be the boss of math. Math was a breeze. Math was fun. I owned math. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division … easy! I was a champ at math games like "Around the World" and was lightning-fast at long division chalkboard relays. (Yes, I’m dating myself here.) Fractions? Bring ‘em on. Story problems? No sweat. Math and I were friends, and we were happy.
Sadly, that all changed my freshman year of high school, when I was introduced to something new – Algebra. That’s when math started to get a lot less … fun. Truly, as I write this, I feel that old anxiety beginning to creep over me. I thought about listing some scary algebraic terms here, for effect. But not surprisingly, it seems they’ve been erased from my memory.
Not Blaming Anyone
Now, let me be clear on one issue. Mr. Alstatt, the high school Algebra teacher, was great. He was thorough in his instruction, approachable, dutifully patient and just an all-around nice guy (albeit a little nerdy, with his short-sleeved dress shirts and plastic pocket protector). The problem was ME. I didn’t follow. My brain just did not seem to operate in this strange and nonsensical way. In other words, Algebra did not come easily, certainly not as easy as math always had before.
And that, more than the algebra itself, is what really threw me for a loop.
I just didn’t understand. I struggled, and I dreaded going to class, but I did not ask for help. Not from Mr. Alstatt. And not from my folks, who would’ve helped in a heartbeat. I managed to get by, applying the one or two concepts I had sort of grasped, pretending to get it when I absolutely didn’t.
Although I had always been a straight-A student, I was now content earning Bs and sometimes Cs in Algebra. I'd say things like, ‘I can study all day and it won’t matter,’ or ‘It’s just too darn complicated’ or ‘I’m a creative person; math just isn’t my thing.’
Of course I didn’t want to admit that I didn’t understand something that appeared to come so easily to everyone else. Because, you know, it was embarrassing. And I had a reputation to protect … I was “one of the smart kids.” And I wanted to keep it that way. Plus (and this is a biggie), I’m a pleaser. With Algebra, it was hard for me to please.
No More Skating By
In the end, I skated by ... never really learning, never really understanding. Once I made it through, I never took another math class. And you know what? It still bothers me, to this day.
I know that if I’d just asked for help, I would’ve been able to grasp it. I made excuses and sold myself short.
So let this be a cautionary tale to all you readers who might also be scared of math. Fear no math! Get in there, ask your instructor all the questions you want, get a tutor, do what you need to do! You’re smart, and you’ve got this. Don’t sell yourself short.
Fear No Math! Grantham Students Get Help with TLC!
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