This is a story of personal pain, struggle and ultimately triumph. A story of how one mathematically-challenged soul came to pass the Math Competency exam.My hate for math started the day my kindergarten teacher used animal crackers to teach subtraction. She held up three crackers and then placed one behind her back. How many animals are left? she asked. Maybe I was too distracted by the animal shapes, but my brain just couldn’t understand the problem.
Math didn’t get any better through elementary and middle school. In 4th grade, I channeled my hate for it through humor. One day in class, I got a case of the giggles with a friend that was so disruptive the teacher kicked us both out of the classroom. In 7th grade, I joined a special math study group that rewarded correct answers with Jolly Ranchers. Still, math made no sense.
In high school, my only reason for passing my math courses was a patient geometry teacher who helped me every morning with my homework. After graduation, I celebrated never having to take a class in my despised subject again.
Or so I thought. When I came to Goshen, I realized I would still need to pass the math competency exam required for a liberal arts degree. Though my heart dropped with the panic of facing one more math test, the fear was nothing compared to the consequences of failing the test. Failing would mean I’d have to take an entire semester of Math 105. I decided I would do whatever it would take to pass that darn test.
Since then, I have taken the math test every year—or sometimes, I’ll admit it, twice a year. And every time, I have failed. But every time I’ve held hope that the next test will be better. Many of my friends can attest for the wild journey this has been.
But this week, right as I was beginning to foresee a dark future of Math 105 in my spring schedule, something miraculous happened. I took the test for the 5th time. And … drum roll, please … I passed!
For all my life, my relationship with math has been like dancing the tango with a bad dance partner: we’ve stepped on each other’s toes, cursed under our breath and missed the correct rhythm by miles.
Maybe one day, I’ll think of my ability to calculate a quadratic formula and be grateful for my math education. But today, I say a joyous goodbye to a dreaded subject. I think the best “equation” for our relationship now will be some distance.