I have had the same dream for about a decade. I am back in highschool and I either can’t find my math class or I arrive at the very end. It is near the end of the year, I haven’t done any of my lessons and the final exam is looming. I wake up with heart pounding and feet ready to run back to Gladstone Secondary. No matter how many times I tell myself “you’re not taking math. It’s okay.” The nightmare remains.
This didn’t actually happen. I was diligent in doing my homework and attended every class in highschool and I squeaked by with 54%, C-. The problem was I didn’t really understand any of the questions. Math was a foreign language that I did not speak.
The irony is that I remember helping a classmate with her math homework and trying to explain it to her. Somehow I was able to BS and help her well enough that she kept calling me back. Maybe she just liked the company. I was born a teacher not a mathematician. I was also born a creative writer and am used to there being many right answers, not one. I remember my heart sinking when the answer at the book was vastly different from my attempts. The seemingly emotionless crafts led me to torrents of tears and frustration.
Fast forward 20 years later trying to figure out this reoccurring dream.
Even though my bum was sitting in the chair listening to my teacher drone but my mind was trapped by so many barriers that I felt like I wasn’t there. I was “good” quiet kid not knowing how to advocate for myself so I didn’t get the help that was desperately needed.
Beneath all of the fear and frustration and confusion was a desire to learn the language of math. A curiosity and interest. Time to be the teacher that I needed.
After a session with my numbers brain husband I flipped open this library book on my own.
A familiar feeling of anxiety crept into my tummy.. oh algebra, the mysterious symbols and signs..
The very first basic skills chapter sent me scrambling to the answer key. Maybe I should start with Math 8…
But fortunately answer keys have changed in the last couple of decades and this one included steps that I could follow to the solution. Many attempts and flipping of pages later I solved the problems! Oh sweet victory.
When the pressure of grades and time is off and the right instruction is given, math can be a fun puzzle. Calculations are tedious and, some argue, unnecessary with technology and I still can’t find a practical daily life need for dividing fractions with exponents or solving quadratic equations. There is, however, an undeniable feeling of fulfillment when my answer is the correct and it is not a fluke. I know how I got there.
Maybe I will press on to math 12 and calculus, or maybe the journey will end here with evaluating -3+(5+2×3) – 2(-17).
Either way, next time my daughter or my husband, or me for that matter, is having a meltdown maybe there is something that we desperately want to learn. We just need some help and patient kindness in getting there.