A math whiz I am not

Life as I KNow It
by Nicole Daughhetee

Considering my proclivity toward degree-seeking in the realms of higher education, one might think that I was always an excellent student.

To that I say pish-posh (in my best written British accent).

Last night for homework, Emerson, my third grader, had a math sheet focusing on geometry — specifically identifying right, acute and obtuse angles. Here I was thinking I would at least be able to help my children get through elementary school math.

I was not exposed to geometry until my freshman year in high school. Having done well in junior high pre-algebra and algebra, I was placed in an honors geometry course that ninth grade year. That, I believe, is the year when numbers turned into some mocking form of hieroglyphics that made absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.

Of course, deciding that I didn’t like math and that math was not “my thing,” I’m certain I also did not apply myself with the same level of enthusiasm I always approached courses like English or history.

Math is one of those subjects I had to work at, and there were times when I did put forth the effort only for it to end in miserable frustration. I can recall sitting in class, actively paying attention to what Mrs. Friedman wrote on the board, and taking detailed notes.

At home when I would sit down to do my homework, the fact that I had paid attention or taken notes did not help me in the least. I was always amazed that problems sort-of made sense in the classroom but mere hours later, at home, they made no sense.

When ninth grade was over, I think I wound up with a C in geometry. Truth be told, I’m not entirely proud of how I managed to secure that particular grade. Achieving that C required a group effort, in addition to a coded series of gestures and articulated noises. Like I said, not my proudest moment.

After geometry, I suffered through honors Algebra 2, and in that class I earned a D, all on my own merits. Needless to say, that was the last honors math course I took. Junior year, I took regular trigonometry and analytic geometry. Believe it or not, I earned a B and enjoyed the course. That was the end of math for me until college.

I have such a profound respect for people who can navigate the labyrinth of numbers with the same ease I have navigating our American lexicon.

That is how I helped Emerson with geometry: my instinct was to pull the dictionary off the shelf and help her look up the words acute and obtuse to ensure she was assigning the correct answer to each picture’s angle.

I realize, of course, at some point the dictionary is not going to help my girls with math. If anyone knows a good math tutor, please send me an e-mail. At this rate, we’re going to need one much sooner than I anticipated. Beyond the most basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division … if they have to rely on their dear mother, my poor girls are going to be up the old proverbial creek without a paddle.