Where it all started…

I should probably introduce myself. My name is Michelle and I’m a freelance writer. This information is relevant for a few reasons. The first being that it’s how I came to be writing this blog.

Through the social networking site Twitter I “met” Lori Johnson of MathHead Inc. Met is in quotes because I have never actually met her. All of our correspondence has been over the Internet. Isn’t this digital age great?

Lori was looking for help rewriting her MathHead website. I am always looking for business and upon sending her some samples of my previous website work, Lori expressed interest in working together. The whole experience was great! Probably THE easiest client ever. Thanks, Lori! J

In our discussions about the website copy, it came out that I was a really bad Math student myself. I struggled all my life. I went to Catholic grade schools, where the teachers are “Jacks-of-all-trades,” therefore not specialists in anything. Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t BAD teachers, just not fully equipped to handle a student struggling like myself.

High school wasn’t any better. I was going for a Regents diploma, meaning I had to take at least 3 yrs of Math and science. Ohhh boy. That was interesting. I struggled all three years. My first 2 years I had a very understanding teacher, Mrs. Dumond who did her best and was patient with me. I think the highest I ever got in her class was a C+ or even a B-…when it was Geometry stuff. Algebra? Fugettabout it.

The 3rd year was Mr. Calamari. Let’s just say half the reason I stayed after for extra help was my major crush on his son…who was a substitute teacher at the school. I struggled nonetheless. I stayed after every day for extra help. I plugged away at it…still C’s. I vowed that was the last math class I would ever take.

I should mention at this point that I was an EXCELLENT student in English and sciences such as biology and environmental science. The “hands-on” types. In fact, I was in Advanced Placement (AP) English and Biology. I was supposed to be in AP world history as well but I dropped because the other AP workloads were hefty and I was a year-round athlete for most of high school.

Then came chemistry. Ooooh boy. More math. More low grades. This teacher was less patient and I passed by the skin of my teeth. Red marks all around. This was a junior year class and once again I vowed to make this my last science class, foregoing Physics because of the math involved.

I graduated and moved on to St. Bonaventure University as a Journalism/Mass Communication major. That was kind of my only option because I was told time and time again that if I majored in English, I would never be able to get a job. So here we are. After the first semester, I knew a couple of things: I HATED journalism, mainly news writing and reporting and after an intro to Mass Communication class, I realized I loved Marketing and Advertising.

I spoke with my advisor about switching majors and she showed me a list of classes I’d have to take to graduate. Statistics, Calculus…math…math…math. At this point I had just completed and struggled through a class that was supposed to be the “dumb math class” for JMC majors. There was no way I was going to subject myself and my GPA to those math classes. The idea was nixed right then and there.

Junior year rolls around and I realize that I really like Psychology as well. I considered minoring in it. Made another trip to the advisor’s office and took a look at the courses I’d have to take for a minor. More math. Chemistry. Not as many of those classes as I would have if it was my major but still very daunting. Another idea nixed.

At this time I was taking Economics course. Can’t remember if it was Macro or Micro. Doesn’t really matter because I was failing. Hardcore. I had a student tutor who was really bad.  I visited the professor for help and to plead my case on a number of cases. At one point I was so frustrated with the class that I would doodle and write stories instead of paying attention. It was THAT bad. I knew I was going to fail and I had given up.

The final rolls around and I get up and get to the final 15 minutes early to cram. The professor is there along with a few other students who look at me strangely. I HAD MISSED THE FINAL. It was at 8:30. I felt like the wind was knocked out of me and started crying on the spot telling the Prof that it wasn’t intentional and I was freaking out because it was an instant “F.” I still don’t know why he did this, but he told me to take just the multiple choice part and don’t do all of the 20 (!) short answer problems. Maybe it was because he didn’t want to stay any longer. Maybe it was because he knew I didn’t have a chance of getting them right.

A month later I get my report card and see a big fat “C” for Economics. I was blown away. There was no way that I had done that well on the final. The following semester I went to visit that Prof to not only thank him, but to ask why he helped me (and my chances of graduating). I was told he died that summer from a brain aneurysm that ruptured on the operating table. That was the last math-related class I had ever taken.

My point in telling you my history with math was to show you that I had tried each time. I gave it a chance. I struggled, accepted the bad grades, and over time, accepted the fact that I WOULD NEVER BE GOOD AT MATH. Maybe I did myself in by feeling and thinking that way each time. I don’t know. All I know is that when Lori approached me the idea of this “experiment,” I said yes without even thinking about it first. I’m at the point in my life where I know I can do anything that I want to if I give it a chance. I may not be perfect at everything and it takes longer to get good at some things, but I’ve gained the confidence I need to be able to go back to the drawing board and retrain my brain into thinking that yes, even I CAN DO MATH!

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