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Home > Autobiographical Stories > Retarded at Math

Retarded at Math

About a month ago I got the idea that maybe I should take the SAT again. My thoughts about it fluctuated from “You’re too old for this shit” to “Maybe improving significantly would help to offset the 10 Fs [NB: not related to math] on transfer school applications” to “Collegeboard is an exploitative monopoly and doesn’t deserve your money.”

After several weeks of procrastination and self-loathing, I caved to impulse and bought a used prep book off Half.com. My final rationale was that if I actually studied this time around and kicked ass then I could use the SAT score to IQ conversion chart to artificially inflate my self-esteem via arbitrary numerical representation of intellectual worth.

This particular book was aimed for kids already proficient at standardized testing and focused on strategies for solving the “harder to hardest” rated difficulty problems on the test. Knowing my weakness, I flipped to the Math section first. But on the first example problem, which the book so encouragingly stated I should be “embarrassed” if I got wrong, I immediately knew that I was doomed.

The was fear was confirmed: I am, and will always be, retarded at Math.

Most people who suck at Math accept it, embrace their strengths, and Math goes on to be subject they are happy to avoid outside of tax season for the rest of their adult lives. But I like Math. Math is pretty. If Math were a person, I’d give her high fives and hold her hair back when she drinks too much at a party and vomits profusely onto the toilet seat.

There’s this deep visceral frustration when I can’t “get” Math as easily as I can distinguish trochaic octameter in 19th century gothic lit and pull coherent, intellectually rich thesis topics out of my ass and identify which school of theory the thesis most closely embraces.

There’s also the fact that I’m quite taken with Math’s sister, Science.

So far, the fusion of Math in Science has been no factor. My ability to plug shit into formulas and use a calculator remains sound. But I know that for the really cool and interesting things I want to learn eventually, math is kind of very important.

At the end of the day, though, math is formulaic.  You can memorize your way through steps, even if you don’t understand why you’re doing them.  In my opinion, it’s harder to figure out how to write well from reading rather than figuring out how to solve a algebra problem by looking at an example with an explanation.

In this sense, I’m lucky.  If I get a professor that gives points for using the proper method and can forgive stupid shit like plugging in the wrong number, I’m at least passable.  “Retarded” may be a hyperbole, but the effort to outcome relationship I have with Math (It’s like that girl I’m just not that compatible with, but I keep pursuing.) maddens my nerd soul to the core.

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  1. June 16, 2011 at 1:09 am

    SAT Math != real math, not in the slightest. The comment about taxes is telling; saying that formulas and calculations and memorizing steps are math would be like saying that knowing proper grammar is the study of English.

    • scandalousmuffin
      June 16, 2011 at 1:35 pm

      Do you have an example of something that would be considered real math? Or were you making a real number pun?

  2. June 16, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    Yeah, so I guess a preview of this book gives you a relatively good idea of what analysis is. This is relatively representative of the kind of mathematics that is done at both the college level and what people mean by math.

    http://www.amazon.com/Tools-Trade-Paul-J-Sally/dp/0821846345

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