“The moment I have dreaded for nearly six years has finally arrived.” – Jean-Luc Picard
He was talking about a Borg invasion of the Federation. It resonates for me for something far graver.
I had an up-and-down relationship with mathematics once I got to high school, and thereafter. It started ignominiously when I chose my Algebra I classroom for a foolish homework showdown with my teacher.
But then the next year, I really dug geometry. I had a teacher I enjoyed, but I also loved the subject matter. Geometry was much more philosophy than mathematics to me. The definitions of truth and reality always rumbled right beneath the surface, and I liked that.
Algebra II was mostly fine, but then…trigonometry.
I had a good teacher for trigonometry too, but trig was the beginning of higher math not ever really “clicking over” for me. It just never turned me on. I had to work. It wasn’t intuitive. I didn’t get much satisfaction out of finishing. It was a slog. It was when I started thinking maybe I didn’t need to pursue an engineering career.
I got a liberal arts degree, managed to make a reasonable living with it, and mostly lived happily ever after, except that one critical academic planning error I made was kicking my only required college math class down the calendar until it was in the next-to-last quarter of my college attendance. (Should have been early, Bo. You know, more chronologically adjacent to the rest of your math education?)
The class was called Business Calculus, and it’s what you took if you weren’t going to enter the Calculus I-IV sequence. A kindly high school teacher a handful of years from retirement taught it, and I was the only upperclassman in it. I sweated and bled for the B I got in that class—one of the hardest-earned grades I ever received—as the kids around me sighed, propped their heads on their elbows, and effortlessly filled in the blanks on exams.
Grrr. Let’s write essays next, you little snot-nose.
I am prouder of that B than I am many of my As.
Now my younger son is well into algebra, and my older son is knocking on trig. Thankfully, they’re mostly proceeding apace. But we’re already down to about 50% whether I’ll be able to answer a math homework question (or point in the right direction) without further research, and Nate’s only in ninth grade.
May be time for Dad to find a book or two of his own.